In Abortion Debate, Only Extreme Voices Are Heard | Opinion

Otis Adams
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In the United States, the conversation on access to abortion is overwhelmingly controlled by those with minority opinions.

One might assume that the two sides involved are those who want abortion made legally available at all times, regardless of the reason, and those who want abortion outlawed in every situation, regardless of circumstance.

Those forgotten are the more than half of Americans who consistently believe that abortion should be legal, but only in certain circumstances.

This pesky majority is sometimes hidden by polls that only allow one of two responses. When asked, "do you consider yourself pro-life or pro-choice," the pro-choice option tends to edge out the pro-life side, as "certain circumstances" can more readily fit that camp.

While the polls do not tend to ask what the circumstances the majority of Americans see as making abortion a legal option, public debate suggests it would often include the life of the mother being at an unusually high risk and pregnancies as a result of rape and incest.

The recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade sends the issue of abortion back to states to decide. It is yet to be seen whether the majority will have any influence in the new state laws being written or if it will continue to be decided by those on the edges.

Gallup polls over time make it clear that the majority view on the issue of abortion in the United States is consistent - it should be legal, but only under certain circumstances. As those with minority views attempt to dominate the conversation, it would be useful for the majority to get more airtime.

May 2022

Certain circumstances - 50%

Any circumstances - 35%

Always illegal - 13%

May 2017

Certain circumstances - 50%

Any circumstances - 29%

Always illegal - 18%

December 2012

Certain circumstances - 52%

Any circumstances - 28%

Always illegal - 18%

May 2007

Certain circumstances - 55%

Any circumstances - 26%

Always illegal - 18%

May 2003

Certain circumstances - 57%

Any circumstances - 23%

Always illegal - 19%

August 1997

Certain circumstances - 61%

Any circumstances - 22%

Always illegal - 15%

July 1992

Certain circumstances - 48%

Any circumstances - 34%

Always illegal - 15%

September 1988

Certain circumstances - 57%

Any circumstances - 24%

Always illegal - 17%

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Author of Lavatory Reader #1: This Road, now available on Amazon. Otis Adams is the author of three books and has won two dozen awards for his screenplays and short fiction. He writes regularly on and can be contacted at

Columbia, MO

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