The Public Discourse 30 October 2013
When Wendy Davis announced she was running for governor of Texas, the news was heralded as the dawning of a new day for Texas. Davis, whose filibuster temporarily halted the Texas legislature from enacting a ban on abortions after twenty weeks, has been designated as a national standard-bearer for women’s reproductive choice by an adoring media.
Likewise, when the California legislature passed a bill to allow non-physicians to perform abortions, it was lauded as a monumental advance in women’s health. Most commentary and news articles on these two events have parroted the popular yet unsubstantiated narrative that women are largely supportive of the abortion agenda—widespread, open-access abortion policies with little or no restriction. Yet polling data fail to support this narrative.
For example, if you ask women about the law banning abortions after twenty weeks, you find that most are in favor of it. In Texas, 59 percent of women support the twenty-week restriction, while only 30 percent oppose it. While it is tempting to think that Texas, a deep red state with its own unique culture, is somewhat of an outlier, results of nationwide polls show even stronger support for the ban among women.
A Quinnipiac poll found that 60 percent of women supported the twenty-week ban, while an additional 8 percent stated that abortion should never be legal. That represents a full 68 percent of women who would be supportive of the twenty-week ban. Among men, only 50 percent supported the twenty-week ban, and only 6 percent stated that abortion should never be legal. That represents a 12-point gender gap on this issue, with women being much more likely to support abortion restrictions. The poll is hardly an outlier, since a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 71 percent of women favored at least a 20-week ban on abortion, while only 63 percent of men did.
Likewise, polling data on the California bill that allows non-physicians to perform abortions show widespread opposition. While the data are not broken out by gender, Californians oppose the law by a 65-30 percent margin, and by a 65-15 percent margin believe the law will actually be harmful to the health of women.