National Post

Women move right

Majority oppose abortion, favor family values

Editorial - February 3, 1999
Richard Lessner
The Union Leader

Abortion rights allegedly is the definitive political issue among women. American women, we are repeatedly told, overwhelmingly support keeping abortion "safe and legal."

The only problem with this truism is that it is not true.

A nationwide survey found that a majority of American women -- 53 percent -- opposes abortion except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. In all other cases, a majority of women favors making abortion illegal.

This is an earth-shaking revelation, one that rocks the placid assumptions of the liberal establishment and puts to flight the conventional wisdom about so-called "women's issues." So shocking were the results that the survey was withheld by its feminist sponsors for more than a month, and then was pretty much ignored or downplayed in the elite media.

The survey of 1,000 American women was taken in late December by the prestigious Princeton Survey Research Associates for the Center for Gender Equality headed by Faye Wattleton, former executive director of Planned Parenthood.

"We find some of the findings in the report very disturbing," Ms. Wattleton told the Washington Times. "Women express more conservative attitudes than we had expected."

In addition to the finding that a majority of American women are pro-life, the survey also found that women are becoming more conservative generally. Respondents split 50-50 when asked if elected officials should be guided by their religious principles; in a similar 1993 survey, 63 percent said religion and politics should not mix.

Women also are becoming personally more religious, with 75 percent saying they consider religion "very important" in their lives. Fifty-one percent identified themselves as "born-again or evangelical Christian."

While virtually all of those polled favored equal treatment in employment, pay, promotion and such, 48 percent said that the husband should be the primary breadwinner in the family and that women should focus on the home and raising children. A majority favored making it harder to get a divorce.

Diane Colasanto of the Princeton survey said that the growing conservatism among American women is not just a blip, but a long-term movement to the right. Historian Elizabeth Fox Genovese of Emory University said, "The retreat from abortion was bound to come."

The political implications of these findings should be obvious. The Republican Party is the pro-life party in American politics. It is the party that stands most squarely for traditional family and religious values. With American women becoming more conservative and embracing the pro-family Republican message, there is little need for the party to water down its principles or jettison its defense of the unborn for the sake of some mythical "big tent."

If there is a gender gap, then it is the gap between pro-life women and the fanatically pro-abortion Democrat Party.

—Richard Lessner