A gallup poll released yesterday showed that a smaller percentage of Americans than ever — 41%! — identify as "pro choice." At the same time, a record number of people say they're "pro-life." What the hell is going on?
The shift away from the "pro choice" label could be explained in a number of ways. It could be an issue of branding — maybe anti-abortion rights folk have managed to smear the label, to taint it with a bad rap in the same way conservatives tainted "liberal" (or lib'rul). But it's mostly an issue of the meaninglessness of the labels — both have been so twisted and pulled in a million directions that they literally mean opposite things to different people.
Regardless of what people are calling themselves, one fact remains clear: while "pro-choice" people overwhelmingly support abortion rights, "pro-life" people don't necessarily believe that overturning Roe makes sense, or that legislators should make restricting abortion a priority. Gallup is careful to add that even though people have their own personal "pro-choice" or "pro-life" views and a kind of depressing number of Americans say they support further restricting abortion access, most people don't consider it a something that should happen right away; they're just fine with leaving things as they are and would prefer that legislators focus more on stuff that isn't pink and uterus-shaped. Most voters would prefer politicians focus more intensely on things like jobs, the economy, the middle class. You know, things the gladhanding ex-lawyers we keep electing don't have any clue about.
The fact that "pro-life" and "pro-choice" mean totally different things to different people is best illustrated by the party breakdown within the Gallup poll. More than 70% of Republicans say they're pro-life, but that still leaves a surprising percentage of Republicans (22%) who say they're "pro-choice." And 34% of Democrats say they're "pro-life." If most voters truly cared about abortion issues at the expense of everything else, those numbers would be more strongly reflected in party affiliation.
Gallup also notes that the "pro-life" side tends to be more adamant, and therefore more vocal than "pro-choice" identifiers, which makes sense when you consider the fact that religious people tend to be more practiced at approaching things, uh, religiously.
In a statement released yesterday, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards agreed that labels don't matter anymore, saying,
What this poll makes clear is that labels like ‘pro-choice' and ‘pro-life' simply don't reflect the complexity of how most people actually think and feel about abortion in this country. A majority of Americans still believe abortion should remain a safe and legal medical procedure for a woman to consider if and when she needs it, and these fundamental views have held steady for more than a decade. Instead of putting people in one category or another, we should respect the real-life decisions women and their families face every day.
But what should people who are uniformly against outlawing abortion call themselves if not "pro choice?" Pro Everyone Minding Their Own Fucking Business About What Other People Do To Their Bodies won't fit on a bumper sticker. That might not even fit on a sassy feminist tote bag.