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This incremental strategy has paid a variety of dividends. There is a growing body of peer-reviewed research showing that public funding restrictions, parental involvement laws and properly designed informed consent laws all reduce abortion rates. Furthermore, the ongoing debates about these incremental laws — many of which enjoy broad public support — have succeeded in reframing the abortion debate on more favorable terms.
Indeed, many of the most-worrisome trends of the early 1990s have reversed themselves. It is now Democrats who appear more conflicted over their party’s platform on abortion. The governors who supported abortion rights and were once thought to be the future of the Republican Party have vanished from the political scene.
Additionally, the anti-abortion position is gaining public support. A 2009 Gallup poll showed that, for the first time, a majority of Americans described themselves as “pro-life.” A May Gallup poll registered the lowest-ever percentage of Americans who identify themselves as “pro-choice” — 41 percent.
Most importantly, the number of abortions is steadily declining. Since 1992 the number of abortions performed in the United States has declined by about 20 percent. All of this bodes well for the future of the cause.
At some point, the Supreme Court will reconsider its holdings in both Roe and Casey. Predicting judicial rulings is far from an exact science. The Supreme Court may well decide to overturn Roe v. Wade. However, even if Roe is upheld, there is a good chance the court will continue to allow for greater state-level regulation of abortion. It will be up to the next generation of activists to effectively use future legal openings to advance the culture of life.
Michael J. New is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and an adjunct scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.