Earlier was argued that evangelicals have failed to grasp that there is a strong base of support for Legalized abortion in society. In this section, we will examine the opinions of Americans on this issue and then explore some of the possible reasons for the state of opinion that we find. Finally, we will examine some of the implications of the findings for anti-abortion strategies. In table 1, we examine data from a series of surveys conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The figures cover the period from 1972 (just prior to the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade) to 1985.
A series of hypothetical possibilities were presented to survey respondents, who were asked whether they favored abortion if the life of the mother were endangered, in cases of rape and serious birth defects, in cases of families with low incomes, and finally “for any reason,” the extreme pro-choice argument.
Apparently, Americans strongly favor abortion in cases where the mother’s health is in danger, where rape is involved, and where birth defects are a strong possibility. In these instances, the support for abortion was strong and steady throughout the time period studied. Proposals for changes in laws that do not permit abortions in such situations are going to meet strong resistance from the public at large. Particularly difficult to deal with are the findings showing strong public support for abortions when there is possibility of birth defects. Although, for most evangelicals, abortion under these circumstances are considered undesirable, proposals for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion that do not include these options are likely to be opposed by legislators in tune with public opinion on this emotional issue.
However, the data in table 1 show that the country is strongly divided in its pinions concerning the desirability of abortion in other circum stances. Americans are about evenly divided on support for abortion where family income is the problem, somewhat less supportive for reasons of “convenience,” and even less in favor of an unlimited pro-choice position. Viewed from one perspective, these data show a great deal of opposition to “convenience” abortion. From another perspective, however, there appears to be at least 40 percent of the population that could be said to be hard-core pro-abortion.This suggests how difficult it will be to bring about fundamental changes in this area if this hard-core group is mobilized to defend unlimited pro-choice policy. In addition, the University of Michigan, through its Center for Political Studies, has been examining the abortion issue for some time.