Our abortion crackup is a synecdoche for the political dysfunction that afflicts our politics as a whole, with activists on the extremes controlling the agenda on both sides and the reasonably conflicted majority in the middle increasingly silenced, its voice barely penetrating the debate in state houses and courtrooms.
The center of gravity in public opinion on abortion very much reflects the moral messiness of reality. According to Gallup’s long-running tracking poll on the subject, just 18 percent of the country wants the procedure banned in all cases, and just 29 percent want it legal in all cases. That’s 47 percent in favor of purity on one side or the other. That leaves a bare majority — 50 percent — supporting a compromise view that keeps abortion “legal under some circumstances.” It’s also worth noting that, despite what many pro-choice activists like to imply about a male-driven crusade to transform the country into the misogynistic tyranny from The Handmaid’s Tale, the Pew Research Center has shown that men and women hold quite similar views on abortion — with 60 percent of women and 57 percent of men in favor of keeping it legal in all or most cases, and 36 percent of women and 37 percent of men preferring in all or most cases to ban it. (The discrepancy between the two polls is mainly a function of Pew’s decision to lump together those on the extremes and in the center — “all or most” — on each question.)