Conservative author and commentator Meghan McCain sparked a social media debate and drew pushback from a pro-choice organization this week when she claimed half of American women are pro-life.
Yet recent Gallup surveys show she is largely right.
McCain, a co-host of ABC’s The View, made the remarks in a tweet Tuesday.
“If my life serves no other purpose it is to fight for the rights of the unborn,” wrote McCain, who recently gave birth to her first child. “I am intensely pro-life and it is arguably the most important principle of my conservative values. Statistically half of women agree with me. The media just doesn’t give them the same voice I have.”
If my life serves no other purpose it is to fight for the rights of the unborn. I am intensely pro-life and it is arguably the most important principle of my conservative values. Statistically half of women agree with me. The media just doesn’t give them the same voice I have.— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) February 16, 2021
More than 4,000 people, including the organization Catholics for Choice, commented.
“Meghan, this is incorrect,” Catholics for Choice tweeted, itself pointing to Gallup data. “In the Roe era, the vast majority of women have consistently supported pro-choice positions to some degree. (And by the way, so do a clear majority of Catholics).”
Meghan, this is incorrect. In the Roe era, the vast majority of women have consistently supported pro-choice positions to some degree. (And by the way, so do a clear majority of Catholics). https://t.co/IKA8xqToNs pic.twitter.com/o2a1qPf3sl— Catholics for Choice (@Catholic4Choice) February 17, 2021
National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru, who is pro-life, defended McCain, saying surveys mostly back up her claim.
For example, the percentage of women who describe themselves as “pro-life” stood at 41 percent in Gallup’s 2020 survey but was at 51 percent in 2019. Since 2000, that percentage has always been above 40 percent in Gallup’s polls.
Ponnuru said other Gallup data also supports McCain.
“In 2018, the most recent year for which I have the data broken down by sex, 31 percent of women said abortion should be legal in any circumstance, 14 percent said in ‘most’ circumstances, 32 percent said ‘only in a few,’ and 20 percent said ‘illegal in all’ circumstances,” he wrote in a National Review column. “Read that data the way CFC does, and you would say that 77 percent of women were pro-choice that year and 20 percent pro-life: pretty close to the 2020 numbers. … But it’s also true that 52 percent of women thought abortion should be legal in either few or no circumstances, while 45 percent said it should be legal in most or all circumstances. Cut the data that way, and you’ve got a small pro-life majority among women.”
Since 1979, the percentage of women who support legal abortion with no restrictions has never topped 34 percent in Gallup – and in most years hovers in the 20s.
Further, a recent Marist/Knights of Columbus poll gave respondents six options for abortion policy in America. Only 16 percent of women said abortion “should be available to a woman any time she wants one during” the pregnancy. A total of 52 percent of women said it should either be severely restricted or banned (30 percent said it should be available in cases of rape, incest and to save the mother’s life; 10 percent said it should be available only in cases to save the mother’s life; and 12 percent said it should never be permitted).
“‘Catholics for Choice’ would undoubtedly consider a politician who said that abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest, or threats to a mother’s life to be an opponent, not an ally,” Ponnuru wrote. “This was, after all, the view taken by all three of the last Republican presidents. But a woman who held this very same view might well, if Gallup asked her, say that abortion should be allowed in ‘certain’ circumstances. She would then be part of the group’s spurious pro-choice majority.
“Opinions toward abortion are complicated, but McCain’s description of it seems to me much more reasonable than her critics’,” he wrote. “Her larger point, that the press tends to underrepresent pro-life women, is also right – and a misleading picture of public opinion is one reason why it does that.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.