First, let me stipulate a few things:
Over the last 20 years, Republicans have become more pro-life and Democrats have trended more pro-choice (to use the terminology that each side likes to use about itself). Beyond that, you have to be very careful in reading polling data on this issue. For example, according to Pew Research, “Today, a 58% majority of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.”
Clearly a liberal wrote that sentence for Pew because I can frame the exact same data this way: “Only 25% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all cases.” Or, “a majority of Americans believe that abortion should only be legal in some cases.” Or, “roughly three times as many Americans support at least some restrictions on abortion as believe it should always be legal.” (I think the second sentence is the most neutral and the most informative.)
Surprisingly (at least to me), there’s almost no “gender gap” on the question; men and women poll about the same when controlling for other traits such as age, religion, political party, and ethnicity. The difference among age cohorts is also small; younger people are more pro-choice than their parents or grandparents but not by as much as you might expect. Hispanics — a major target market for both major political parties — are substantially more anti-abortion than either blacks or whites (who poll similarly to each other.)
Because liberals tend to be highly concentrated in certain states, it’s likely that the vast majority of the citizens of most states outside of the northeast and California support at least some restrictions on abortion.
We know that New York contains an enormous number of liberals; the state has more than twice as many registered Democrats as registered Republicans. (In New York City, the ratio is more than 6 to 1, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was even higher.) So it’s not necessarily surprising that they would pass a law that would effectively allow abortion up until the day a baby is born.
Virginia, even though run by Democrats, killed a bill that, according to its sponsor, would have allowed an abortion even if — and please forgive the gruesome imagery here, but this came directly from a debate in the state legislature. — the mother was “dilating” and about to give birth. That anybody would sponsor such a bill is shocking, even to this pro-choice columnist.
A detailed and remarkably objective article in a Catholic publication explains the new New York law. It’s worth a read because it lays out how on the one hand the law is truly extreme and how on the other hand it changes almost nothing. For example, New York’s existing law was almost exactly as permissive as the new law. Also, data show that fewer than 1.5% of abortions occur more than halfway through a pregnancy. So true “late-term” abortions are exceedingly rare; they just get a lot of attention.
It’s understandable that pro-life activists push their agenda using examples of late-term abortion, even if they are uncommon. It’s much less understandable why pro-choice activists would want the rest of the country — which already supports abortion restrictions — to be reminded of things like “partial-birth abortion,” Kermit Gosnell, and so on, and to think that’s what the Democratic Party stands for. I can only assume that the left believes they are reacting to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Like everything else with the left and Kavanaugh, their reaction is an over-reaction.
Liberal Democrats live in a bubble in which everyone they know (at least everyone willing to express an opinion) is pro-choice. They don’t understand that a substantial majority of the nation is OK with at least some restrictions on abortion.
Abortion, as an issue, isn’t like gay marriage or marijuana, both of which continue to experience large and rapid changes in public opinion — and I realize this framing expresses my libertarian bias — toward freedom. Again, abortion is different: while public opinion in support of abortion is currently modestly higher than it was a decade ago, it is not higher than it was two decades ago despite, as mentioned earlier, a larger partisan divide than there used to be.
Which may explain why Democratic politicians are becoming so aggressive on the issue. In my opinion, unnecessarily and self-destructively aggressive.
What does it achieve, other than serving as a giant patting-themselves-on-the-back, for Democrats to light the spire on New York City’s One World Trade Center in pink to celebrate the passage of the most permissive abortion law in the country, maybe the world? (Particularly that building, by the way, which should only ever be used to symbolize American unity.)
What does it achieve for Democrats to have to defend a bill, even if it failed, and even if it would almost never come into play had it passed, that would allow an abortion literally minutes before a gestationally full-term baby is born? They might not suffer politically in New York. But they might in Virginia. And in many swingier states than the Old Dominion.
It’s not brilliant politics in this painfully early-to-begin 2020 presidential campaign season for Democrats to represent such an extreme position on a most visceral issue. Knowing that President Trump won Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan by fewer than 100,000 votes combined, would you (as a Democrat thinking about national politics) really want to shock the conscience of hundreds of thousands of more culturally conservative Midwestern voters who really could go either way a mere 22 months from now?
Add this to lunacy like Elizabeth Warren’s proposed unconstitutional tomahawk chop to the assets (not just the income) of wealthy Americans, Kamala Harris’s desire to end private health insurance (what a breath of fresh air to hear a Progressive name her true goals!), and whatever wacky socialist drivel flows from the unfiltered facial orifice of the Bronx gift that keeps on giving, and Republicans won’t even need Nancy Pelosi to run against anymore.
If Democrats persist in their hyper-aggressive support of unrestricted abortion, right up to the moment of birth, one more thing they’ll be aborting is victory in November 2020.