And going strictly by the numbers, it may not look like public opinion on abortion has changed very much over the years. In April 1975, according to Gallup, 21 percent of Americans thought abortion should be legal under all circumstances and 22 percent thought it should be illegal under all circumstances. In the early nineties, there was a brief spell where a full third of Americans believed abortion should always be legal. That started to slide midway through the Clinton years, and by May of this year, we were almost exactly where we started in 1975: 22 percent saying always legal and 23 saying always illegal.
But that downward trajectory could continue. If forced to choose, Americans today are far more eager to label themselves “pro-life” than they were a dozen years ago. The youngest generation of voters—those between the ages of 18 and 29, and therefore most likely to need an abortion—is the most pro-life to come along since the generation born during the Great Depression, according to Michael D. Hais and Morley Winograd, authors of Millennial Makeover, who got granular data on the subject from Pew Research Center. Crisis Pregnancy Centers, dedicated to persuading women to continue their pregnancies, now outnumber the country’s abortion providers, who themselves are a rapidly aging group (two-thirds are over 50, according to a National Abortion Federation study from 2002). In the wake of the murder of Dr. George Tiller this year, the Senate couldn’t even pass a resolution condemning violence against abortion providers.