Abortion

Abortion

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press suggests a dramatic change in support for same-sex marriage.  According to the poll, 28 percent of current supporters of gay marriage say they used to be opponents.  Ten years ago, only 34% of those polled said they supported gay marriage and today 49 percent say they support it!  There are also some dramatic changes in support for gun control measures (although, in the case of guns, increasing support has not necessarily translated into gun control legislation).

And then there is the issue of abortion where, depending on how you ask the question, support for abortion rights has not necessarily increased and, indeed, some polls suggest we may have lost a little ground over the years.

So, what’s the problem?  Why are we stuck after all of these years?

Abortion

Abortion

If you examine the general issue of gay rights, I think the answer is rather evident.  More and more gays are coming out.  They are telling their families, their friends and their neighbors.  They are marching, writing letters, chatting on websites and doing as much media as possible.   And this is affecting our elected officials, many of whom (including Obama) now openly court the gay vote.  The most recent example of a conversion is Senator Rob Portman, a staunch conservative form Ohio who recently changed his position on same-sex marriage because his son told him he was gay.  Support for gay rights is increasing because more and more people are coming to realize they know a gay person.

Abortion

Abortion

Meanwhile, a little over one million women each year have abortions and for the most part they remain silent.  To be sure, when the right to abortion is under attack they might participate in a march or letter writing campaign but, because they do not mention their own abortion, they appear to be fighting for the right of others to have an abortion.  They are one step removed and it’s a less powerful argument when it’s not personal.  To make matters worse, when someone finally admits to having an abortion, it seems that most of the time they’re now pro-life because they wound up “regretting” their decision.

This is a classic Catch-22.   Women are still very reluctant to talk about their abortions because of the stigma attached to the procedure.  But the stigma is very real because women will not talk about their abortions.  To be sure, there are some websites and blogs out there that urge women to share their experiences and let others know that they had the abortion and are “okay” today.   But it’s hard to find those sites, so these stories are not getting much attention from the general public.

We can only hope that one day all of this will change.  But before it does, before a woman “comes out” and talks about her abortion, she has to be able to get over the shame that society and, in particular, the pro-life movement, has imposed on her.  They have to be able to admit that they were pregnant and decided to not let that pregnancy grow.

That’s a tough leap to make.  And I’m not optimistic that we’ll ever see a large enough group of women willing to make it.