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The state of abortion

There’s no huge shock, but some food for thought, in the latest Survey USA state-by-state poll on abortion.

The question asked was whether the respondent considered himself or herself “pro-life” or “pro-choice.” There are loads of objections to this approach, not least that attitudes on abortion in this country tend to be far more nuanced than that. But the effort to deliver a clean dividing line as a tool for political analysis.

Natonwide, SUSA said, 38% call themselves “pro-life,” and 56% “pro-choice.” In ranking the states, in just 13 states did the “pro-life” percentage outnumber “pro-choice.” Utah came in first, which is no surprise.

Idaho was fourth, decisively so, 55% pro-life, 41% pro-choice. So decisive a pro-life lead is a little surprising, since the issue has not been a decisive winner at the polls. The last time it was a truly driving issue was in 1990, when the Idaho Legislature passed what would have been the strongest anti-abortion legislation in the country, only to see itself rebuked first by Governor Cecil Andrus’ veto and then by Idaho voters, who gave the state’s Democrats a sohrt moment of sunshine before the Republican lock set in two years later.

But – on the other hand – that was 15 years ago, and Idaho has changed a lot since. Has it become so much more socially conservative that the legislature’s action, rejected in 1990, would be decisively upheld today? Maybe so.

Oregon and Washington scored almost identically in the SUSA survey, with 33% and 32% respectively calling themselves “pro-life,” and 62% and 63% respectively self-described “pro-choice.” Makes clear why the issue doesn’t often come up in these states as a wedge; it wouldn’t work very well.

In Tuesday’s balloting, California voters rejected a proposal to require parental notification for abortion for a minor. (California’s numbers: 28% pro-life, 65% pro-choice.) There has been talk about putting such an issue on the Oregon ballot in 2006. One suspects that after a review of the California results, and of polling information, that idea may go by the boards.

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