Abortion wars: pro-choice forces question accuracy of new poll

However the “pro-life” tag for all those anti-women’s-rights people came to be co-opted, it was a stroke of genius. It is, of course, more devious than truthful. Anti-abortion forces, as this space has raged about from time to time, piously support the life of a fertilized egg, while ignoring the lives of mature women. But the loaded label is firmly set.

Most recently, a Gallup poll has brought it to the forefront once more. That poll, released early this month, showed that slightly more Americans call themselves “pro-life” (47%) than “pro-choice” (45%.) The figures are about the same as shown in a similar poll last July, though the pro-life leanings are actually weaker than the percentages a year ago (51% to 42%.) Writer Amanda Marcotte, blogging at RH Reality Check, argues that the poll numbers don’t reflect the political strength of pro-choice Americans. Rather, she says,

the term “pro-life” is more of a tribal identifier or a feel-good term than it is a political stance.  This becomes only clear when you consider that pro-life activists tend to follow the lead of the Vatican (even if they’re Protestant) and object to all forms of fertility control that offer women a reasonable amount of control over their own bodies.

Marcotte interviewed Jessica Grose, whose article on Slate.com about the poll also questioned whether the pro-life numbers reflect a trend against women’s choice, or might be attributable to other factors. Republicans not wanting to be counted as pro-choice because it might align them with Democrats, or Obama; the general movement of Gen Y away from pro-choice. Grose does not, in the long run, see the poll numbers as a voice of doom.

The notion that more and more Americans are embracing the pro-life label is pretty terrifying for pro-choicers. But what does it really mean to call yourself pro-life or pro-choice? Do the labels actually track people’s views about the legality of abortion? The answer may be yes, but not in a simple or neat way. Though more people are calling themselves pro-life, the percentage of Americans who say abortion is morally wrong is down six points from last year. But at the same time, a Pew poll from last August showed that slightly more people are also saying that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, though the gain is only 1 percent from the previous September.

The upcoming Supreme Court nomination process could potentially shift things back to the pro-choice label. It’s not about Elena Kagan per se, but Gallup senior editor Lydia Saad says that when the abortion issue is raised in relation to the Supreme Court, the issue tends to help the pro-choice side—because, in the end, most people don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade. Recent data back up the second part—according to a CBS News/New York Times poll from April says that 58 percent of Americans still believe that Roe v. Wade was a good thing.

A hopeless optimist to the core, I wish I could join these wise observers in finding any glimmer of hope in the whole scene. From where I sit and what I know — and I am among the steadily dwindling few who know first hand the horrors that women faced pre-Roe v Wade — the hard core anti-abortionists are pulling every trick in the book to gain ground, and it’s working. If they ultimately do win, women will suffer an unfathomable loss.

Money, media and Emily Dickinson

You always want your own kid to be #1. Best all round.

So of course I bet on True/Slant having gotten its name, in part at least, from Emily Dickinson. True: the celebrities, literary and otherwise, who most frequently pop up on these pages are more 21st century than 19th. Can Emily hold her own amid the likes of Rima Fakih, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga? (These fellow femmes come from assorted recent True/Slant pages, this good site not yet having a Literature section.) Slant: I suspect she can hold her own against Elena Kagan or Sarah Palin, any day.

The good husband and I attended an interesting play over the weekend, Tell It Slant, a Southside Theater production of a play by Sharmon J. Hilfinger and composer Joan McMillen at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. It tells, with both truth and slant, the story of young Emily. Was she gay? Did she have a secret lover? Did sister-in-law/romantic interest Susan go running off having abortions after she married brother Austin? You’ll have to read a biography or two, and you still may only gain a slant. What IS true is that one of the extraordinary poems penned by the Amherst recluse reads as follows:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightening to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —

This occasion (dinner and a play) came at the instigation of our erudite physician friend Bob Liner. He says of course the subliminal reference to ‘Tell it Slant’ was intentional when T/S settled on its name. Far more cynical husband says, nahh, it’s a matter of reported news always having a slant, and T/S pursues the true one. I weigh in on the lofty hope of such a connection — this being the closest I’m ever likely to come to Emily Dickinson despite my A in poetry while  pursuing an MFA at the University of San Francisco.

Alas. Pure coincidence say the esteemed editors. But in the Sunday New York Times Magazine article in which writer Andrew Rice extensively quotes T/S founder Lewis Dvorkin I read that the name was picked “off a list of compound words that were made up by a Web developer.”

Now if I can just track down that Web developer. Surely she was a fan of Emily Dickinson.