If I were to ask you whether Albert Pujols was the best player in baseball, yes or no, I would only get a simple answer to what is a complicated question. Pujols was the leader in home runs, not to mention the top of virtually every baseball statistic there is within the last ten years. But he hasn’t hit a home run in over one hundred games and his batting average .269, way below his lifetime average of .329. You also have other players such as Jose Bautista who are now dominating the areas Pujols once did. And yes, this does have something to do with politics.
The same situation above also happens when you ask people if they consider themselves to be pro-life or pro-choice. Gallup recently came out with a poll that read “American’s Still Split Along Pro-Choice, Pro-Life Lines” with 49 percent saying they were pro-choice and 45 percent saying they were pro-life. While the poll asks people whether it is acceptable for a women to have an abortion under certain circumstances, it never asks which circumstances or why. It doesn’t help any policy maker decide how to vote on this issue, how his/her constituency feels about it, and what policies would they accept if enacted.
That is why Third Way, a Washington think tank, asked more questions to figure out what the American people really think about this contentious issue. In 2008 they came out with a study called A Consensus on the Abortion Debate—Reducing the need for abortion while preserving the right to have one. One of the questions they asked people was if they agreed with the statement “I support abortion rights, but I believe we can find common ground to reduce the need for abortions in America while still protecting a woman’s right to have one.” This was supported by 83 percent of Democrats, along with 50 percent of Republicans, including 43 percent of those who considered themselves pro-life.
The point here is that while there are plenty of Americans who feel strongly about this issue, the majority of them believe there is wiggle room. By asking people whether they are pro-choice or pro-life pushes them into a box to define themselves when neither definition fits. Both terms are nicely phrased slogans made up by the two sides to fit on advertisements and enable people to understand and explain where they are coming from. Every election cycle candidates are asked where they stand on abortion, but doing so doesn’t fully define their position as it wouldn’t for anyone else. The debate then lacks the serious conversation that is needed to move forward and only scratches the surface of the policy questions that need to be discussed.
Since it’s always important to start with the points where everyone agrees, the Third Way poll showed 72 percent of American’s favor enacting policies that will reduce “the number of abortions in America by preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting women who wish to carry their pregnancies to term.” That means abstinence only education is not a solution, but safe sex education and funding programs that will help women during and after their pregnancy is.
This particular Gallup poll was so close, if new, randomly chosen people were asked the same question the numbers could easily be flipped around. But even so, both sides tout when they see more American’s state they are on their side.
I remember watching Mike Huckabee do an interview (must have been The Daily Show) and he said something along the lines of “I believe a fetus is a living being, but I also believe we have to take care of it when it is born.” Now that he’s not running for President, I hope he and other major players won’t allow the health care debate to get overwhelmed with hyperbole, so that way the President and members of Congress can really say they represent the American people.