Countering pessimism about the prospects for overturning Roe v. Wade, Catholic political writer Mark Stricherz has argued that there is still reason to work for the changes in American law because most Americans in fact disapprove of most abortions.
Stricherz, the author of the book Why the Democrats are Blue, made his case in a March 25 entry titled “Why Overturning Roe Would Save Lives and Be Popular” on the blog of the Jesuit-run America magazine.
Addressing arguments that overturning the pro-abortion rights Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade would be both ineffective and unpopular, he said there was little evidence that most states would preserve the permissive status quo in their abortion laws.
Reporting the results of a 2005 study from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, Stricherz said about three-quarters of women seeking an abortion said they did so because having a baby would “dramatically” change their life or because they couldn’t afford the child. About half of the surveyed women cited relationship problems or a desire to avoid single motherhood as main factors driving them to seek an abortion.
“Overall, more than 90 percent of the 1.2 and 1.3 million abortions performed annually are for these economic, familial, and social reasons,” he wrote.
However, a Gallup poll reported that 61 percent of U.S. respondents opposed permitting abortion for those suffering financial stress. No fewer than 65 percent of respondents opposed abortion in cases where the mother and father did not want another child, did not want to marry, or did not want the pregnancy to interfere with the mother’s career.
“The vast majority of the public disapproves of the vast majority of abortions that are performed. They oppose abortion in these so-called ‘easy’ cases,” Stricherz explained. He added that Americans support legal abortion in “hard” cases such as rape, incest, fetal deformity or endangered maternal health, but these circumstances are present in less than 10 percent of all abortions.
He granted that when poll respondents are asked if Roe should be overturned, only a minority said it should. However, he claimed this was because the American public is “ignorant” about the permissiveness of American abortion law. Many poll responses also depend on phrasing. Only “a bare majority” support allowing abortion at any time in the first trimester, he wrote at the America magazine blog.
While granting that translating public disapproval of abortion into law “will not be easy” for extreme cases, Stricherz said: “virtually any post-Roe regime in the states would extend more legal protections to embryos and fetuses than the current one.”