A Gallup Poll released recently confirmed a trend observed for the first time last year that more Americans identify themselves as “pro-life” than “pro-choice.” Now, before the social conservatives crack open the champagne, let me offer a cautionary note.
Despite the recent polling numbers, virtually unchanged over the thirty five years the poll has been conducted is the solid majority that believes abortion should be legal under certain circumstances. (Another interesting finding is that as many people abortion should be illegal under any circumstances as those who believe it should be legal under any circumstances, tending to support my personal theory that there is an equivalent number of nutballs at both ends of the political spectrum). So whichever of these vague labels one may be willing to take, the fact that one identifies himself as “pro-life” does not mean his attitude toward access to abortion has changed.
Thus, socially conservative Republicans should not see this data as justifying a political platform to restrict abortion rights. As I mentioned, unchanged is the fact that most believe abortion should be permissible under certain circumstances. Republican candidates, however, can make their point with the “pro-life” element by saying that human life is sacred and that abortion is morally wrong – and leave it at that. Pro-life and pro-choice are not mutually exclusive. One can believe that abortion is morally wrong, but realize that reasonable minds can differ – just as they do with regard to other religious beliefs. Let others hold their beliefs without retribution or recrimination. Indeed, such is the true "conservatism" that emphasizes limited government and pesonal responsibility.
Aside from being the sensible thing to do, it allows socially conservative Republicans to court votes on both sides of the aisle without looking like the anti-abortion jihadists they have in the past.