The People Behind Gallup’s Polls

Kate Childs Graham

Recent polling data from Gallup suggested a drop in support for legal abortion among young adults. But we need to look past the numbers to uncover the reasons for these numbers, and what needs to be done to change them.

In order to fully understand any polling data, we have to understand who the numbers are about. Last week, Gallup released polling data that showed a drop in support for legal abortion among young adults ages 18 to 29. Although young people still show the highest level of support for abortion across the generations, this drop is concerning. However, we must look past the numbers to uncover why young people are expressing lower levels of support for abortion and how we might better engage them in the future.

Today’s young people were the unfortunate beneficiaries of eight years of funding and support for abstinence-only education. As a result, those in their late teens and twenties experience the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies. But the detrimental impact extends well beyond STIs and pregnancies.

For the most part, abstinence-only education either does not make mention about abortion rights and services or casts these rights and services in a bad light. And so, young people have not received accurate information they need to make informed decisions about their own lives or create informed opinions about matters of reproductive justice.

One of Choice USA’s young activists from Kentucky put it best: “I feel that I was short-changed in sex education because I was taught abstinence-only-until-marriage and that just doesn’t apply to everyone.”

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Abstinence-only education is not solely responsible for the drop in support for legal abortion among young adults. As we know, young people receive their information both in and out of school. Unfortunately, out of school, the silence on, discomfort with and denigration of abortion has been repeated in a wide variety of venues.

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of this polling data is that, while the data indicate changes in attitudes, young adults are nonetheless having the vast majority of abortions. A recent Guttmacher study found that women in their twenties account for 58 percent of all abortions in the United States.

Without doubt, and as we know when it comes to the stigma attached to abortion rights, there is a great disconnect between what young people are doing and what young people are saying.

We must overcome the stigma attached to abortion in order to engage all people, and most especially young people. We need to craft messages and provide information that change the hearts and minds of people and that lift up the human aspects of the abortion debate. It isn’t just about changing attitudes towards abortion, we must change how people view sex and sexuality on the whole.

Study after study has shown that young people are very progressive and also very concerned with “morality.” We need to take that knowledge and create spaces for young people to receive accurate, unbiased information and wrestle with the moral dimensions –in their various forms and complexities–of sexual and reproductive health.

In Choice USA’s work in high schools and colleges, we often meet students who have yet to form an opinion on abortion. They come to us and express reservations, frequently rooted in their cultural or religious background. We try to provide these students with spaces, free from judgment, in which they can talk about the complexities of abortion. Some do decide they are against abortion in some or all circumstances. More often than not, with accurate information in hand, these young people choose to support the full range of reproductive rights.

It’s true that today’s young people didn’t experience the tragedy of back alley abortions.  Young people can respect, but not fully comprehend, the struggles that led to the Roe decision. And young people weren’t there during the founding moments of today’s pro-choice movement.

Yet while young adults didn’t necessarily experience these things directly, they have experienced the lack of affordable options for abortion services. Young people know the impact of heinous parental notification and 24-hour waiting period laws. Above all, young people feel the stigma that exists around having abortions and supporting abortion rights.

In a recent interview about the contraceptive pill, Gloria Steinem was asked if she thought young people took the Pill for granted. She simply replied, “I hope so.” Hopefully, one day soon, young people will be able to take a woman’s right to choose for granted. That day has not yet arrived. But only then will we know our work was not done in vain.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.