Why Isn’t Millennial Support For Abortion Rights Increasing?

Exploring why young Americans are increasingly supporting gay marriage, but not abortion

Do you know who has the most accurate grasp of the number of abortions performed annually in this country?  My pro-life friends.  My pro-choice friends, in my limited experience, usually cannot come within half a million of the actual number.  Now, you can argue that my pro-life friends are unusually well informed, and that’s true–I’m sure that there are loads of pro-lifers who believe wildly inflated statistics.  But they’re about as well informed as my liberal friends, who generally dramatically underestimate the number of abortions obtained in America.


Amanda Hess explores why young Americans are increasingly supporting gay marriage, but not abortion:

The institute calls this a “decoupling of attitudes.” Support for same-sex marriage and abortion rights have traditionally gone hand-in-hand, and that’s changing. Though young people today are “more educated, more liberal, and more likely to be religiously unaffiliated” than their parents–all factors traditionally correlated with support of abortion rights–they are not actually more likely to support abortion.

Here’s one explanation for the decoupling: Youth support of same-sex marriage does not reflect an embrace of progressive values, but rather an expansion of conservative ones. Over the past several decades, the mainstream gay rights movement has aligned its priorities with fundamentally conservative institutions: Gays and lesbians want the right to get married, adopt children, and serve in the military. These family-friendly, all-American demands appeal to the conservative base, and work in direct contrast to the lingering stereotyping of gays as promiscuous Communists. Today, support for gay marriage is nearing 50 percent among even the most conservative of American youth, likeRepublicans and white evangelical Christians.

Reframing abortion rights as a family value is a trickier sell. Though about one-third of women will abort a pregnancy in their lifetimes–a figure that spans age, ideology, and religion–many who have undergone the procedure remain in the closet. And the increasing acceptance of gay marriage among conservatives may not help the cause. After all, the anti-abortion movement has now found a key ally in gay Republicans.

Remarkably, the word “harm”–or any synonym for it–is missing from this explanation.  If you care about harm to a fetus, why would it help you to know that abortion is really, really common, even among older women and conservatives?  It’s as if she’d written “though abortion comes in three exciting flavors–chemical, vacuum, and intact dilation and extraction* . . . ”  Really?  That’s supposed to change minds?

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