Nothing has changed. Another recent poll showed that the majority of Americans still are uneasy about unrestricted abortion.
Personally, I believe this. Somehow, down deep in their hearts, most people know that abortion is in fact willful destruction of a human life.
The Marist Institute for Public Opinion conducted the poll, and the Knights of Columbus paid for it, so be prepared to hear the pro-abortion lobby blast it as a Catholic ploy to manipulate opinion. To reply, note three points.
First, misgivings about unrestricted, wide-open legal abortion have been consistent in America, without interruption, throughout history, including recent history.
Second, the Marist Institute for Public Opinion is highly respected for sampling public opinion. The very critics who may denounce these findings at the same time will compliment Marist Institute polls that reveal the widespread unpopularity of President Donald Trump or his tax plan.
Third, the Marist conclusions parallel so many other contemporary opinion samplings.
I accept the Marist results, for the reasons given above. The poll is more than trivia. It challenges us who revere human life, including unborn human life.
So, now what? Do Americans have any options or opportunities when it comes to shaping public policy regarding legalized abortion? Indeed, they do have options. Abortion is a complex question under the current law. Legislation affecting it requires approval under the usual process of enacting laws. We recently saw the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, effectively a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last fall, fail to garner the support necessary to proceed in the U.S. Senate.
Creeping into the long national discussion about abortion is that opponents of the practice in some way step outside accepted constitutional boundaries or at least good citizenship.
Nonsense. Americans who oppose abortion have every perfect right to make their voices heard and votes counted, hoping to halt legal abortion. Speak up, but beware of this assumption. No one can assume that abortion will end altogether if a majority in Congress or in state houses disapproves of it. On the fundamental question of abortion, Congress never acted. We have legal abortion because the U.S. Supreme Court declared abortion to be any American’s constitutional right when the court ruled on Roe v. Wade in 1973, with the justices supporting the idea 7-2.
Much turnover has occurred on the court since then. Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork failed in the Senate. Merrick Garland’s nomination was not even put to a vote. Several justices, such as Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, were accepted only by the skin of their teeth. Senators have every right to exercise their judgment on the matter. None is obligated in any way whatsoever to support a presidential nomination.
Nothing is guaranteed when a justice takes office. Reagan was expected to appoint conservative justices, but two of his nominees, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, once seated, were anything but pro-life. Most people supposed that George H.W. Bush would propose pro-life nominees, but his first appointee, now retired Justice David Souter, hardly opposed abortion. Kennedy and Roberts are practicing Catholics. In 1973, the only Catholic justice at the time voted for Roe. Catholicism has never guaranteed how justices will rule.
Vote. Lobby. Take the Supreme Court place in the matter with a grain of salt. Most of all, tell friends and family why abortion is wrong. It kills human beings. Period.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain.