Since 2000, nonsurgical abortion methods, usually pills, were introduced to terminate early pregnancies.
These methods have given rise to “telemedicine” abortions, in which clinics use webcams to permit off-site doctors to counsel women and give them access to abortion pills. Because of telemedicine, the abortion industry is retaining doctors and serving rural clients.
Pro-life forces have responded by flooding most states with laws regulating abortions and clinics. Although some of these laws have been overturned or blocked in court, many states are curtailing abortions past 20 weeks because of a belief that fetuses can feel pain at that stage of gestation.
Public attitudes also have shifted, and the pro-choice majorities of the past are steadily receding.
Last year, a record-low 41 percent of Americans identified themselves as pro-choice, according to the Gallup Poll, a significant drop from 1996, when 56 percent of Americans told Gallup they were pro-choice.
However, the national ambivalence about the choice between unlimited legal abortion and a blanket legal ban remains deep. Polls suggest that the true majority remains in support of legal abortion under certain circumstances: Last year, the plurality view (39 percent) was for “legal in only a few circumstances.”
The rest of the Gallup respondents chose “legal under any circumstances” (25 percent), “illegal under all circumstances” (20 percent), “legal under most circumstances” (13 percent) or no opinion.
A recent Planned Parenthood poll of voters found that many people who say they are pro-life “also believe that women should have access to safe and legal abortion,” Ms. Richards said, adding that this was part of the rationale to step away from the “choice” and “life” labels.
“It’s a complicated topic and one in which labels don’t reflect the complexity,” she said.
But pro-life leaders said they will press forward and work closely with lawmakers in at least 39 states to enact more abortion laws, especially those to regulate clinics and “defund” abortion.
“Despite the fact that we saw a loss with the re-election of the most pro-abortion president we’ve ever seen, the pro-life movement right now is really, really gaining ground and developing momentum,” said Ms. Yoest. “We are really energized right now.”