October 6, 2023

Smoke Screens & Abortion Polling: A Win for Heartbeat Legislation and Protecting LIFE in Law that USA Today is hiding in the fine print 

“Consider the source” is great advice every time a new poll is released. Any poll is only as good or as bad as the question phrasing and the follow up … which makes a recent USA TODAY/Boston Globe/Suffolk University Poll  all the more interesting for those of us among the Pro-Life Generation fighting for the earliest protections possible for LIFE in the womb. Reported in the Gannett News chain flagship, USA Today, the poll results were used to spin a story encouraging former President Trump to walk away from the human rights issue of the day in general and Heartbeat Protection Legislation in particular based on their math … so let’s check the math.

Students for Life Action and Students for Life of America have long been champions for Heartbeat Protection, even calling on the GOP Presidential candidates to pledge to sign The Protecting Heartbeat Pledge, promising to sign such legislation if it makes it to their desk as president.

In fact, SFLAction President Kristan Hawkins reached out to President Donald Trump over unfortunate remarks made about the value of the legislative efforts, writing in a letter:

“It was tremendously discouraging for Pro-Life First Voters and the more than 1,000 volunteers preparing to work with us in the general election to see you disparage protections for preborn infants starting at the universal sign of life – a heartbeat. A political calculation to support limits late in pregnancy, such as 15 weeks (almost 4 months), does not negate the value of laws that acknowledge the clearly understood, audible proof of life. Usually, in an emergency room, we rush to save someone with a heartbeat, and that continues to be the desire of motivated pro-life voters. It’s hard to understand why you would discourage so loyal a following to make a play for the votes of those unlikely to share your vision for shrinking the size of government, working to reduce inflation, or protecting parents’ rights to manage their children’s education and lives.

“In fact, as our own You Gov/Demetree Institute for Pro-Life Advancement polling shows, heartbeat abortion limits and limits when a baby can feel pain, poll basically the same, but a limit at heartbeat clearly will save more lives than waiting until 15 weeks, as more than 9 in 10 abortions take place by 12 weeks.”

But it’s not just our polling indicating that Heartbeat Protections are well received among likely GOP primary voters.

An OnMessage poll in 2022 found that there was only a one-point difference between support for a limit when a baby’s heartbeat is detected or at almost 4 months of pregnancy (15 weeks.) There the math was 50% GOP / 30% DEM – 15 weeks vs. unlimited abortion until birth compared to 49% GOP / 31% DEM – 6 weeks vs. unlimited abortion until birth.

That math is echoed by the USA Today polling.  USA Today reports: “Asked what the strictest limit on abortion they would support, 22% said restrictions at six weeks of pregnancy and 24% restrictions at 15 weeks … Another 1 in 5, 22% were undecided.”

So, protections for children in the womb beginning at the universal sign of life – a heartbeat – polled about the same as limiting abortion much later, at almost 4 months of pregnancy (15 weeks). That’s the same kind of data SFLA’s Demetree Institute for Pro-Life Advancement has consistently reported.  

Also of note, there is a lot of room for education – a specialty of Students for Life in all our initiatives – as 1 in 5 were not sure where they stand.

Still, while the reporting pushed a conversation on abortion, the poll itself was broader and more had some hidden gems.

The original data shows that when asked to rank a list of issues based on the “most important” to your vote today, voters said:

  • The Border and Immigration was their number one concern, at 36.8%
  • The Economy and Jobs was number two, at 31.8%
  • Abortion and Foreign policy were almost tied, each at more than 4%.
  • Most of the other issues were in single digits, except for concerns for “Democracy” at 5%

What the poll did not ask is whether abortion was one of the top issues guiding their vote or whether the voters wanted less abortion than the Democratic Party is offering.

But, there was this gem.

Asked how important, if at all, was “protecting abortion access,” MORE THAN 6 IN 10 SAID NOT VERY OR NOT AL ALL IMPORTANT, though the media coverage hyped the 34.2 % who said they cared about this.

As Students for Life Action President wrote in the Washington Post:

“Consider that Gallup reports 1 in 4 Americans consider abortion a key issue in voting, and nearly half said that abortion was an important issue. For the GOP in particular, abortion should be a high priority, as Gallup notes: ‘Those who consider themselves pro-life are significantly more likely than their pro-choice counterparts to say they will vote only for a candidate who shares their views on abortion … the abortion issue potentially works more to the advantage of Republicans than Democrats, given the parties’ respective platforms and the greater proportion of pro-life than pro-choice voters who will vote only for candidates who share their views on the issue. However, abortion may serve to mobilize voters to turn out more than it does to influence their candidate choice, given the increasingly greater alignment of Republican and Democratic candidates with their party’s position on abortion.’”

Those betting that true love for abortion is a game changing vote-getter are working against the trend lines … and working against the truth that human rights for all human beings matter.