At Slate, writer William Saletan admits that taxpayer funding of abortion — which every Democratic presidential candidate is currently supporting — is a wildly unpopular idea in America, even among women. “Recent polls debunk much of what progressives believe,” the subheading of Saletan’s article reads. For years, polling has shown that taxpayers are solidly against paying for other people’s abortions.
While taxpayer-funded abortion is an idea that appeals to the Democratic Party’s political base, it doesn’t appeal to voters in general. “In every poll, a plurality of Americans opposes public funding of abortions,” Saletan notes. “In every poll but one, that plurality is a majority. The questions vary, but the result is the same.”
Saletan lays out the specifics:
Respondents support “banning federal funding for abortion” except in rape cases or to save the woman’s life (Politico/Morning Consult, 2019). They believe that “government health insurance programs for low-income women, like Medicaid,” should not “cover abortion” (PRRI, 2018). They oppose “using tax dollars to pay for a woman’s abortion” (Marist, 2019). They oppose allowing “Medicaid funds to be used to pay for abortions” (Politico/Harvard, 2016). When they’re told that “the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds from being used to fund abortions, except in the case of incest, rape or to save the life of the mother,” they endorse the amendment (YouGov, 2016).
These polls aren’t close. The average gap between the pro-funding and anti-funding positions is 19 percentage points.
Do lower income Americans want taxpayer-funded abortions?
Abortion advocates have framed this debate as the rich and privileged vs. the poor and struggling — but this doesn’t add up. Saletan writes, “Many opponents of the Hyde Amendment [which prevents federal taxpayer funds from paying for abortion] see it as a class issue,” but most lower income Americans actually don’t support taxpayer-funded abortion:
Many opponents of the Hyde Amendment see it as a class issue. That’s how a Biden adviser made the case in pressing the former vice president to change his position. But there’s little evidence that people of limited means see it that way. In the 2017 Marist poll, among people with annual incomes of $50,000 or more, the margin of opposition to tax-funded abortions was 16 percentage points. Among people who earned less than $50,000, the margin of opposition was 32 points. In the YouGov poll, respondents with lower incomes were less likely than respondents with higher incomes to support federal and state funding of abortions. And in the Harvard poll, support for Medicaid funding of abortion was almost twice as high among voters who earned more than $75,000 as among voters who earned $25,000 or less.
When Biden jumped aboard the ‘repeal the Hyde Amendment’ train, he actually lost support among voters as a whole, reports Saletan. “A pro-funding position, on balance, probably does more to hurt the candidate in a general election than to help in a Democratic primary,” he says.
So while many abortion supporters believe that “If you don’t support abortion funding, you’re not really pro-choice,” Saletan says “nearly half of pro-choicers disagree…. A lot of people seem to think that the right to choose abortion is compatible with the right not to pay for other people’s abortions.”
Public supports “family planning,” but when abortion is included, support drops
When the pro-abortion Kaiser Family Foundation polled Americans on funding Planned Parenthood and abortion providers, women, says Saletan, were slightly more willing than men to fund “Planned Parenthood clinics that provide ‘birth control, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screenings,” but the “gender gap disappeared” when asked about support for funding “clinics that ‘also provide abortions’ or that ‘also provide referrals for abortions.”
In addition, writes Saletan, “The Harvard poll found the same pattern: Women were more likely than men to support funding of Planned Parenthood, but not more likely to support Medicaid coverage of abortions.”
One amazing admission made by Saletan is this: “Why would the gender gap on reproductive health care dissolve when the question turns to abortion? Apparently, something about abortion bothers a lot of women in a way that birth control and STD treatments don’t.”
Despite all the rhetoric claiming women are a monolith in support of unfettered abortion, despite the rhetoric claiming that abortion is no more significant than having a tooth pulled, the fact is, abortion is different. It should bother us. Perhaps it’s because most of us know that abortion is killing — not just a “potential life,” but an actual, developing human being. Most of us know that once a child is conceived, your contraception has failed, and abortion isn’t preventing pregnancy — it’s ending it by taking a life.
And among the general public, “polls show an enormous gap between support for funding abortions and support for funding contraception,” Saletan admits.
“Most Americans agree with the Democratic Party”? Not so fast
On the core question of the abortion debate, most Americans agree with the Democratic Party. They believe that women, not the government, should make the decision. And they don’t support defunding clinics that provide abortions. But on the question of direct payments, most voters agree with the GOP. If Democrats make that question a litmus test, they’ll regret it.
Do most Americans actually agree with the Democratic Party, which supports not only taxpayer-funded abortions, but unrestricted abortions? No. They don’t. (And by default, this also means they don’t agree with Roe v. Wade — they just don’t know it.) Multiple polls have shown that Americans are likely more pro-life than they think they are. Most want to restrict abortion to the first trimester. A 2018 YouGov poll showed that 72 percent of women would favor some sort of abortion restrictions, with 38% — a plurality — saying they want it “illegal in most” or “all cases.”
Ninety-two percent of Republicans, 78 percent of Independents, 60 percent of Democrats, and 61 percent of those who identified as “pro-choice” stated they wanted abortion allowed only in the first three months of pregnancy — at most. A significant percentage of this group believed abortion should restricted even further, as a plurality of 48 percent agreed that abortion should only be allowed in cases of rape, incest, to save the life of the mother, or not at all.
Bottom line, proponents of unlimited, taxpayer-funded abortion are completely out of step with the American people.
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