With the anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaching, the debate over the views of the largest voting bloc in America — millennials — is often a point of contention.
With more than 1,220 groups on college and university campuses in all 50 states, Students for Life of America (SFLA) knows firsthand that the abortion position of the Democratic Party platform so often attributed to this generation is inaccurate, which is why my organization asked millennials directly to look past the labels to the abortion policy that is impacting them.
In a poll commissioned by SFLA’s Institute for Pro-Life Advancement from the polling company inc./WomanTrend, we examined actual policy currently at play and found that the millennials (18-34 years old) surveyed were nuanced and anti-abortion in much of their thinking, while avoiding the labels of pro-life and pro-choice (equally divided at 39 percent to 39 percent.)
Though a majority (56 percent) were political independents and only about 20 percent on either end of the spectrum called themselves either Democrat or Republican, millennials agreed on some significant policy. Millennials want to vote on abortion issues even if that means Roe v. Wade is reversed, and they support limits on the procedure.
In fact, far from being knee-jerk supporters of taxpayer-funded abortion throughout pregnancy, only 7 percent of those surveyed supported abortion without any exceptions and funded by tax dollars.
Looking at the current environment in which abortion policy resides primarily in the courts, 65 percent of millennials surveyed said they want to vote on life-related policy with only 16 percent saying they wanted the policy to remain as is. This is key as reversing Roe is the path toward making that possible, something that more millennials than not supported.
In fact, asked directly about support for reversing Roe and returning abortion to the states for consideration, 41 percent supported that, with 33 percent opposed, and 27 percent undecided. Interestingly, no gender gap appeared in millennials’ interest in having a voice on abortion policy.
In sharp contrast to polls that say Roe has the strong support of the majority of Americans, SFLA found in our first questioning that only 40 percent initially expressed support for the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that combined with Doe v. Bolton lead to the current policy of abortion legal in the United States through all nine months, for any reason whatsoever including sex selection, and sometimes with taxpayer funding.
But as the poll examined the realities of Roe, things changed.
Fifty-one percent said that they opposed Roe when they understood it allows for abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, and 54 percent opposed abortion as a form of contraception or when a mother doesn’t like the sex of the baby. On issues of taxpayer funding for abortion, 45 percent opposed, with only 33 percent supporting such spending and 22 percent undecided.
Illustrating the power of a conversation on actual policy, we asked again about support for Roe after listing some of its impact. The data on minds’ changed was striking.
After considering the realities of legal abortion, millennials’ support for Roe dropped from 40 percent to 35 percent, while opposition to Roe went rose from 12 percent to 41 percent. Not only is this a significant shift, it underscores SFLA’s model of engaging this generation in conversations on the human rights issue of our day.
Millennials expressed an interest in commonsense limits on abortion, with 7 in 10 supporting such limits in general or through specific policies like parental notification, later-term limits and opposition to government funding.
Millennials were also asked about chemical abortion regulation and distribution, a trending concern as about a third of abortions are now caused by chemical abortion drugs and as the state of California is trying to require college and university campuses to distribute such drugs in college and university health centers and as abortion vendors are selling such drugs on line.
But the drugs are dangerous. Women have died when taking the chemicals later in pregnancy or when experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. Both conditions can be determined by a physical exam that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required but that abortion vendors oppose and online distributors ignore.
Focused on putting women’s needs first, 56 percent of millennials oppose selling the drugs online or dropping the requirement for a physical exam because of the risks to women.
Turning to the nation’s number one abortion vendor, we found there is more work to do in educating people on Planned Parenthood’s business model, as initially 41 percent of millennials had a favorable view of them compared to 36 percent with an unfavorable view (still a far lower number than the more than 60 percent usually attributed to them.)
But when we contrasted Planned Parenthood (with 650 facilities, offering limited services and abortion) with Federally Qualified Health Centers (with more than 11,000 medical centers, offering complete medical care and all the services that Planned Parenthood sells except abortion), millennials wanted their tax dollars to go toward the full-service medical centers. By about a 3-to-1 margin (48 percent to 17 percent), millennials said they preferred that their tax monies went to Federally Qualified Health Centers rather than Planned Parenthood.
On the issue of abortion, labels like pro-life, pro-choice, access, health or women’s rights often camouflage the true realities of the policies that today criss-cross the country.
Especially as we talk with millennials, who are often outside the political structure of Washington D.C., the anti-abortion movement must be clear on what we are advancing and its impact on mothers, the preborn and taxpayers. And for those elected officials who want to engage in life-affirming legislation, millennial voters are listening when you compassionately address the specifics of life in law.
Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America.