Hurling Abortion Across the Room
by Catherine Palmer
While consensus does not prove anything in its own right (how many times have our mothers told us, “What is right is not always popular; what is popular is not always right”?), I think it is at least worth learning what consensus is, especially when it comes to contemporary moral issues. The latest poll from Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted May 3-6, 2010, makes American public opinion clear on at least one issue: abortion. It’s unpopular.
When asked whether they perceive abortion to be morally acceptable or morally wrong, poll takers weren’t too torn; they responded in disapproval of the procedure by a 50-38 percent margin—hardly the pro-choice majority that is often assumed to exist due to abortion’s legal status and widespread application in the U.S.
So abortion is unpopular. Most people don’t like it. Or wouldn’t choose it themselves. Or think there are better alternatives. Or all of the above. But the problem is this: while abortion is unpopular, it is not unthinkable. While it is seen as a tragedy, it is not seen as a crime. While it is grappled with considerably, tossed back and forth between one’s hands as he inspects it from multiple angles, he does not ultimately see it for what it is and hurl it across the room; he rather sets it down gently and walks away, deeming it tricky and intimidating and weighty and not wanting to examine it any longer.
But abortion has always been that way, hasn’t it? Out of sight, out of mind? If I don’t think about it unless I absolutely have to, don’t talk about it unless someone else brings it up, don’t see it because it happens behind clinic walls, and don’t hear about it because it is not a pretty topic, then maybe it will just go away. Maybe I will only have to make up my mind when a Gallup poll asks me my opinion. Perhaps I will just admit that I’m against it on this anonymous survey and then never say a word about it to others. After all, I don’t want to offend anyone. I don’t want to push my beliefs on someone else. I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable.
Being pro-life has become private and passive. Indeed it is just that: a being, not a doing. It is something we believe and do not proclaim, think and do not effectuate. We are too fearful.
If the 50% of Americans who oppose abortion would all lift it high over their shoulders and hurl it across the room as far and as hard as they could, essentially proclaiming and effectuating their reasonable stance on the issue, then public opinion just might change public policy.
Until then, consensus really does mean nothing.