Banning Abortion at 20 Weeks: A Planned Parenthood Poll Says Pro-Choicers Can Win.
Two months ago, several media polls examined the latest trend in pro-life legislation: outlawing abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, on the grounds that fetuses at this stage of development can sense pain. The polls suggested that pro-lifers held the upper hand in this fight. A new survey commissioned by Planned Parenthood challenges this conclusion. According to the organization, it shows that “when voters understand the real-world circumstances” of these abortions, “they overwhelmingly oppose” banning them.
Is that true? Let’s look at the data. Planned Parenthood, to its credit, hasn’t just issued a selective press release and a polished memo from its pollster, Hart Research. It has also provided the entire questionnaire and results to Slate. Here’s an independent assessment of what the findings show.
1. The game plan. “Unlike other surveys,” the pollsters write in their memo, “we measure voters’ considered opinions about these 20-week bans by asking about the specific circumstances in which abortions should and should not be allowed.” When the questions focus on these circumstances—giving voters “a chance to learn about the real-world consequences” of 20-week bans—“the margins in opposition to these bans are so significant that we think it is very likely that they would be voted down in a popular referendum in virtually any state.” The point of the poll and the memo, in other words, is to show pro-choice politicians and strategists how to frame the issue so they can win. The poll isn’t a neutral test of public opinion. It’s a model of how to steer the conversation. Pro-lifers want to steer it toward pain; pro-choicers want to steer it toward extreme circumstances.