Washington Post Editorial Misrepresents Abortion Polling

The Washington Post Company building in Washington, D.C., 2012 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Washington Post editorial on abortion regulations published yesterday evening begins with one misdirection, ends with another, and fills its middle with so many obfuscations it would take a great deal of time and space to unpack them all. Let’s focus on just a couple.

The editorial begins with the claim that “public support for abortion rights is at its highest since . . . Roe v. Wade,” citing just one poll that shows 67 percent of voters believe abortion should be legal in “all” or “most” cases. This cherry-picking of data entirely ignores a variety of studies that show the trend on Americans’ views of abortion moving in precisely the opposite direction.

A majority of Americans still describe themselves as “pro-choice,” but according to recent Marist polling, more than three-quarters say they support restricting abortion to, at most, the first trimester. That statistic includes a majority of Democrats and a majority of those who call themselves pro-choice, an incredibly under-reported reality. Last summer, meanwhile, Gallup found that fewer than one-third of Americans support allowing abortion after the first trimester — and that just 13 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in the third trimester.

That last figure matters, of course, because Democratic lawmakers in New York, and Virginia, and Rhode Island, and Illinois, and New Mexico, and Vermont have spent the first few months of 2019 pushing policies to allow abortion, for any reason whatsoever, until the moment of birth. We witnessed a fight in the U.S. Senate over the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would have required doctors to provide medical care to newborn infants who survive attempted abortion procedures. Forty-four Democratic senators voted against that bill, and it failed to pass.

But, predictably, the Post editorial mentions none of that. Instead, it focuses on the nefarious efforts of pro-life state legislatures to pass “heartbeat bills,” which prohibit abortion after the point that a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually at about six weeks’ gestation. The most accurate sentence in the entire piece is this one: “The bills are clearly unconstitutional under the 1973 Roe decision, which said states may not restrict abortion before the fetus is viable outside the womb, generally around 24 weeks of pregnancy.”

That’s likely true. Under the regime established by the judicial fiat of Roe and subsequent jurisprudence, heartbeat bills stand little chance of surviving legal challenge. And yet these bills are the ones on which the Post editorial board chooses to fixate, and about which they choose to fearmonger. Perhaps that’s because they realize how deeply unpopular Democratic abortion policy is with Americans and — like most of the media, who evidently sympathize with the abortion-rights movement — would like to change the subject as fast as they can.

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