CNN poll: 58% oppose abortion in most or all cases

This news hit yesterday, just before the start of CPAC 2014, but it seems to have attracted a little more attention today — perhaps in part because the CPAC conference has a controversy of its own over the pro-life issue. A new CNN poll shows a wide majority of Americans think abortion should be illegal in most or all circumstances, although it’s the circumstances that might be the issue:

About one in four Americans say that abortion should be legal in all circumstances, one in five say abortion should always be illegal, and slightly over half the public thinks abortion should be legal in some, but not all, circumstances, according to a national poll released Thursday.

A CNN/ORC International survey also indicates that a majority opposes taxpayer money being used to pay for abortions for women who can’t afford the procedure, with Americans split on whether women who receive government subsidies for health insurance should be able to get a plan that covers abortions. …

According to the poll, 27% say that abortion should be legal in all circumstances, 13% say it should be legal in most circumstances, 38% say that it should be legal in few circumstances, and 20% say abortion should always be illegal.

The intro gives the impression that pro-abortion forces are stronger, but the opposite is the case. What is telling here, though, isn’t so much the numbers in the majority but the composition of the minority. It’s easy to explain the absolutists on this side, who will offer bogus “clump of cells” science along with the “my [body] my choice” slogan with the ironically hypocritical attempt to silence the pro-life movement. However, those who want abortion as an option in most cases only number half as many as the absolutists, which means that the arguments about life beginning at conception may be having an impact.

On the other side, about three times as many people believe that abortion should be limited to “few circumstances.” The poll doesn’t specify, but these are presumably the usual exceptions: rape, incest, and a physical threat to the life of the mother. Since together rape and incest account for less than 1.5% of all abortions, and only 12% of those seeking abortions even refer to their own health as an issue as a non-exclusive reason (according to data at the abortion-friendly Guttmacher Institute), we’re talking about support for barring all but an an inordinately small percentage of the million-plus abortions a year in the US. An additional 20% would ban the rest.

That demonstrates powerful momentum for the pro-life movement. Ironically, though, this is the first CPAC in some time to not feature a panel on the pro-life movement:

Pro-lifers note there are important panels on the IRS scandal, immigration, Common Core, privacy, gun control, and criminal justice reform–issues in which pro-lifers would be keenly interested. Pro-lifers generally pride themselves on being “full spectrum conservatives”; that is, supporters of the three-legged stool: economics, national security, and moral issues. So they would not complain about panels covering these issues.

But they note other panels on career counseling, methods of making friends, pot smoking, making posts go Upworthy, and even one on Vaccines vs. Leeches, and wonder if there is no room for a panel or two on life issues–issues that motivate a tremendous number of grassroots activists who also vote conservative.

Yesterday I spoke with my friend Lila Rose of Live Action Films about the lack of focus on the pro-life movement at CPAC. We discuss the basis of liberty as the natural rights of human life, which should interest both conservatives and libertarians. Although we didn’t have the poll results in hand at the time, we talked about the momentum seen by the pro-life movement over the last ten years, both legally and politically: