White Evangelicals and Abortion | National Review

White Evangelicals and Abortion | National Review

Signs at the Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

David French writes:

There’s powerful statistical evidence that white Evangelicals aren’t really that committed to the legal pro-life cause.

Majorities don’t want to ban abortion. Majorities don’t prioritize abortion. Indeed, there’s strong evidence that “white evangelical Republican support for Donald Trump is based more on immigration policy than his view of abortion.”

As a pro-lifer myself, I wish every demographic group made the right to life a political priority. But I think David is selling his fellow white evangelicals short here.

His statistical evidence consists of a link to a thread from a scholar who points out (for example) that in a March 2018 survey, 80 percent of the group did not want all abortions to be illegal. I’d note, though, a few points that reduce the force of this observation. First, 54 percent believed abortion should be either completely illegal or “very difficult” to obtain. Second, many of the “very difficult” group are probably thinking of abortions in cases of rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s life. People who believe such abortions should be legal are almost always, and justifiably, considered pro-lifers. (This was the stated position of the last three Republican presidents, for example.) Third, what’s our comparison group? In the same survey, only 31 percent of all respondents believed that abortion should be impossible or very difficult to obtain. If my math isn’t mistaken — and I was, admittedly, a history major — that means white evangelicals were 74 percent more likely than the average respondent to take the relatively pro-life positions. Obviously that number would be even higher if we compared white evangelicals to the population excluding them.

The scholar also notes that only 30 percent of white evangelicals think restricting abortion should be the “highest priority.” That is, again, a much bigger number than the whole sample generates (18 percent).

PRRI’s August 2019 survey gives us more comparative data. Sixty-five percent of white evangelicals in that survey believed abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. A few religious groupings had a slightly higher number — Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses — but there is no question that white evangelicals are the largest group with such a strong anti-abortion lean. Only 42 percent of white Catholics, 52 percent of Hispanic Catholics, and a pathetic 37 percent of my fellow other Catholics fit the category.

My guess on the last set of findings David highlights, meanwhile, is that it mainly tells us that if by now you are a white evangelical Republican who is pro-choice, you don’t prioritize abortion very much.

Suffice it to say that without the relatively strong support of white evangelicals for the pro-life position, its strength in American culture and politics would be radically diminished. Those of us who hold pro-life convictions would be completely marginalized — and surely not on the verge, instead, of overturning Roe v. Wade. This non-white, non-evangelical pro-lifer is grateful.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.