Polls reveal a twist to the abortion story

Wins in parliament don’t mean a final win for the pro-lifers

Two defeats this year – in NSW and Queensland – for abortion law changes that would have decriminalised abortion have been hailed as a miracle by conservative Christians.

“This year’s wins in Queensland and New South Wales are the most significant since abortion became sanctioned under the cover of ‘blob of foetal tissue’ rhetoric,” Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby blogged. “Another miraculous victory for life” was the response of that conservative Canberra declaration group.

… factors other than the vigorous campaign may have been significant

In both states, the “pro-life” groups campaigned vigorously; for example, they delivered a 56,000 signature petition to the NSW Parliament.

But the issue will not go away and factors other than the vigorous campaign may have been significant.

“This Bill was never going to get up,” a MLC told Eternity. “There will be a milder Labor-backed bill to come, which has a better chance.” The just–defeated bill was a Greens bill with radical provisions. It placed no limit on the gestation at which an abortion could be performed and does not mandate for it to be performed by a clinician, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Labor’s Walt Secord said: “I have to say I am profoundly disappointed by [Greens MP] Dr. Mehreen Faruqi’s approach. Because of her approach, this important bill, and the whole area of abortion law reform, is likely to fail.” After the dust settles a new bill is likely.

In the ACT, abortions until full term are legal.

In Queensland, the abortion law changes are not off the agenda. The existing abortion laws have been referred to the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) to provide advice that the Labor Government has pledged to enact if it is re-elected.

In all other states and territories, abortion is legal up until a time limit that varies from 14 weeks (in the NT, from July 1) to 24 weeks (in Victoria), but doctors can extend it. In the ACT, abortions until full term are legal.

While the recent Australian bills have tried to remove restrictions on abortion, the mood in western nations may be moving in the opposite direction. Time limits are key.

70 per cent of women supported a time limit reduction.

A new poll in the UK shows that 60 per cent of adults surveyed say the time limit for abortions should be reduced from the current 24 weeks to 20 weeks or lower. In May this year, 50 per cent told the ComRes polling company they supported a reduction to 16 weeks.

This poll showed a significant gender gap; 70 per cent of women supported a time limit reduction.

In the United States, a CBS news poll in January asked if abortion should be ‘generally available’ or under ‘stricter limit’s or “not permitted”.  ‘Generally available ‘scored 37 per cent, ‘stricter limits’ scored 35 per cent and ‘not permitted’ scored 25 per cent.

… a continuing large majority in favour of legal abortion…

What is striking about this poll, and other polls on abortion in the US (such as Pew Research) is that the results have been stable, with a continuing large majority in favour of legal abortion. But “middle position” polls – which are harder to find – that ask about restrictions show a majority are in favour of tighter controls.

This new poll data indicates that an incrementalist approach, in the same manner as William Wilberforce’s anti-slavery campaign, may be a good option for the pro-life movement.

A poll last year of Queenlanders, by Galaxy polling, also suggests Australia shares a similar mood with the UK and USA. 66 per cent of Queenslanders think that at 20 weeks an unborn baby is a human person. 72 per cent of Queensland voters would not allow abortion after 13 weeks.

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