I am feeling more disheartened than usual after reading this New Yorker piece about American attitudes about abortion in light of the Stupak amendment. Jennifer Senior’s thorough, thoughtful essay explores how public opinion and public policy have changed since abortion was legalized in 1973.
According to a Gallup poll from July, 60 percent of Americans think abortion should be either illegal or “legal only in a few circumstances.” Only seventeen states pay for the procedure for poor women beyond the standards of the 1977 Hyde Amendment—meaning if the woman’s life is in danger or she’s been the victim of rape or incest. Just two months before the health-care bill’s passage in the House, a Rasmussen poll found that 48 percent of the public didn’t want abortion covered in any government-subsidized health plan, while just 13 percent did.
The youngest generation of voters—those between the ages of 18 and 29, and therefore most likely to need an abortion—is the most pro-life to come along since the generation born during the Great Depression, according to Michael D. Hais and Morley Winograd, authors of Millennial Makeover, who got granular data on the subject from Pew Research Center.
I think Amanda Marcotte may be onto something when she wonders whether Generation Y’s relatively anti-choice stance is partly the result of the over-parenting and rigid scheduling many of us grew up with. Unfortunately, parents have become more and more risk-averse in the past couple decades, and they’ve tried hard to make sure the bubbles protecting their snowflakes never burst. Life isn’t supposed to be messy.
Mistakes are unacceptable; therefore, when a
person woman is “careless” enough to experience an unplanned pregnancy, she must pay for it by giving birth. Nevermind that abortion is one way to fix the mistake of an unplanned pregnancy. It’s seen as taking the easy way out, because people women should have to suffer the consequences of their mistakes for life. They should never have made the mistake in the first place.
Obviously, as Senior points out, other factors have been more influential in shaping young people’s views on abortion. The under-30 set never saw women die from back-alley abortions. They weren’t alive during the second wave. The religious right has had much more influence on the political landscape than the women’s lib movement has during their lifetime. I am not sure what we in the pro-choice movement can do to turn things around.