Age Matters

On a Feministing thread about an anti-abortion rally, a few commenters are trying to counter the idea that the relative youth of many anti-abortion activists is a source of concern for pro-choicers. The idea is that some people change their minds when they grow up, so the ideas that are prevalent among 19-year-olds aren’t going to become more prevalent in the future.

The evidence they cite is anecdotal. Colleen says, “It certainly doesn’t mean that they’ll stay pro-life.” The Law Fairy says, “I marched in a protest outside a Planned Parenthood once when I was sixteen… and look where I am now.”

On most issues, Americans get more liberal as they get younger. Pew breaks down polls about various social issues based on age. Americans in the 18-29 range are far more pro-gay and pro-health care than Americans in older brackets. Apart from abortion, the only exception is holding people in Guantanamo without charge, on which they’re as liberal as 65+ Americans and much more liberal than Americans in the 30-64 range.

A South Dakota-style abortion ban, which would turn the US from one of the most liberal countries on abortion to one of the most conservative ones, polls at 34-58. Among under-30 people it’s 35-58, whereas on gay rights they tend to be more liberal than the rest of the country by at least 10 percentage points.

Furthermore, while nationally 34% of abortion opponents say it’s a critical issue compared with 24% of proponents, in the 18-29 group it’s 45-31, higher in both absolute margin and in ratio.

This trend correlates with increasing opposition to abortion in the US. A Harris Interactive poll from 2006 found that supporters of Roe outnumbered opponents by 2 percentage points, the lowest since Harris started asking that question in 1973. In 1998, Roe polled at 57-41; in 2006, it was down to 49-47.

Attitudes toward abortion itself rather than toward Roe have changed more slowly. In 1993, 35% of respondents wanted to make it harder to get an abortion while 22% wanted to make it easier. By 1998, it was 40-16, and in 2006 it was 40-15.

So age does matter. It does matter that young Americans are far more opposed to abortion than they would be if abortion followed the same progressive dynamic as other social issues, like gay rights.

11 Responses to Age Matters

  1. Is there any available breakdown of the religious beliefs associated with the respondents’ answers on abortion poll questions?

  2. ausblog says:

    With each new generation , comes the realisation of the mistakes of the former.

    Many things that were common practice in the past, are no longer practiced.
    By 2050 every-one will look back at many of the practices of today with disbelief and horror.

    Especially the practice of abortion.

    Pro-lifers are simply ahead of their time…………….

  3. Alon Levy says:

    Tyler, there’s a religion breakdown, but it’s not cross-referenced with an age breakdown.

  4. ausblog says:

    I have found some evidence that proves that a fetus is a living human being…….

    The Unborn Victims of Violence Act is a United States law which defines violent assault committed against pregnant women as being a crime against two persons: the woman and the fetus she carries.

    This law was passed in 2004 after the murder of the then pregnant Laci Peterson and her fetus, Connor Peterson.

  5. ausblog,

    I don’t mean to be rude, but is that really your idea of “evidence” that a fetus is a “living human being”? It’s an arbitrary law passed by a Republican controlled congress for the purposes of placating their religious nutter base.

  6. anonyma says:

    I am wondering whether with abortion the change with age is more likely. Most people do not become gay as they grow older, but many experience an unwanted pregnancy, or the fear thereof. Direct experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and childraising can make you more pro-choice. At least, it made me and many others I know.

  7. Alon Levy says:

    As I said on Feministing, the only way to really settle the explanation for the age discrepancy is to look at older polls, or at Canadian polls (since Canada legalized abortion 15 years after the US). If you’re right, then under-30 Americans will turn out to have been less pro-choice than 30-50 ones even in 1990. I Googled for such polls, but couldn’t find any age-stratified abortion poll other than very recent American ones.

  8. ausblog says:

    Wait there’s more…………..

    The “born alive” rule is a legal principle that holds that various aspects of the criminal law, such as the statutes relating to homicide and to assault, apply only to a child that is “born alive”. Recent advances in the state of medical science have led to court decisions that have overturned this rule, and in several jurisdictions statutes have been explicitly framed or amended to include unborn children.

    The born alive rule was originally a principle at common law in England that was carried to the United States. Its original basis was that because of the (then) state of medical science and because of the rate of still births and miscarriages, it was impossible to determine whether a child would be a living being. This inability to determine whether a child in the womb was in fact alive, and would be successfully born, had ramifications with respect to the laws relating to assault and to homicide. (It is not possible to kill a child that has already died, for example.) Thus the act of a live birth was taken to be the point at which it could be reliably determined, in law, that the various laws applied.[1][2]

    However, advances in the state of the art in medical science, including ultrasonography, foetal heart monitoring, and foetoscopy, have since made it possible to determine that a child is alive within the womb, and as a consequence many jurisdictions, in particular in the United States, have taken steps to supplant or abolish this common law principle.[1]

    As of 2002, 23 states in the United States still employed the rule, to lesser or greater extent.[2]

    The abolition of the rule has proceeded piecemeal, from case to case and from statute to statute, rather than wholesale. One such landmark case with respect to the rule was Commonwealth vs. Cass, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where the court held that the stillbirth of an eight-month-old foetus, whose mother had been injured by a motorist, constituted vehicular homicide. By a majority decision, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts held that the foetus constituted a “person” for the purposes of the Massachusetts statute relating to vehicular homicide. In the opinion of the justices, “We think that the better rule is that infliction of perinatal injuries resulting in the death of a viable foetus, before or after it is born, is homicide.

    If it is right for a man (or woman) to be charged for homicide and sentenced to prison for killing the unborn (and rightfully so) then the unborn should have equil consideration in relation to abortion..

  9. ausblog says:

    Both the Fetal Rights ( the unborn victims of violence act )
    And the Born alive rule can be found @Wikipedia.

  10. ausblog says:

    Is a fetus earmarked for abortion of any less value to a fetus killed by violence…?

    Is not abortion a violent attack on an inocent life just the same…?

    I think it’s not ethical to protect one without the other…..

    they’re one and the same……..

  11. Philippe Bourdon-Tremblay says:

    The rights of an unborn fetus are inexistent in Canadian law as outlined in Tremblay v. Daigle [1989] 2 S.C.R. This technically means that an unborn fetus has no rights whatsoever, it is merely an extension to the body of the carrier. How then can article 287 of the Criminal Code of Canada which clearly states that any female who, with intent to procure her own miscarriage uses any means for the purpose of carrying out her intention is guilty of an indictable offence and liable for imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years condemn a carrier who commits a miscarriage by herself? If the fetus has no rights, which indeed it does not, then how can we condemn someone for the killing of something which is not regarded as having a life? The Criminal Code seems to be applying article 287 with complete disregard for common law and the ratio decedendi.

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