For Immediate Release
Most Believe Abortion Makes Women's Lives Worse, New Poll Results
Guidebook Encourages Pro-Life Candidates to Adopt Pro-Woman/Pro-Life Agenda
Springfield, IL -- As the 2004 election year heats up, candidates must once again grapple with the divisive issue of abortion. All the same old arguments will be heard, of course. But this year may also witness a major shift in goals, rhetoric, and voting patterns -- if the strategy promoted in a new pocket guide, Reversing the Gender Gap: Touch the Hearts, Earn the Trust, and Win the Votes of 30 Million Post-Abortive Women, is widely adopted by pro-life politicians.
The booklet is being produced and distributed by the Elliot Institute, a conservative think-tank that specializes in research and education regarding the effects of abortion on women. Reversing the Gender Gap includes results and analysis from a new national poll indicating that the majority of Americans believe abortion makes women's lives worse.
According to the poll, only 16 percent believe abortion generally makes women's lives better. Even among those who describe themselves as "pro-choice," less than 30 percent believe abortion generally improves women's lives. In addition, 67 percent of pro-choice women stated they would be "more likely to vote for a candidate who calls for government support for grief counseling programs to assist women who experience emotional problems after an abortion."
David C. Reardon, Ph.D., director of the Elliot Institute, believes the poll results reflect a reality that has long been misunderstood by politicians on both sides of the abortion debate.
"At least one of every four women voters has had an abortion, and most of these women consider it to be an ugly, painful memory," he said. "Most have many regrets about their abortions, even if they believe it to have been their 'only choice.' This is why they don't support the radical agenda of pro-abortion special interest groups. They've been there, done that, and hated it."
Based on his studies of post-abortive women and the national polling data, Reardon believes that most post-abortive women would be glad to see abortion go away -- but only if it can be done in a way that helps women.
"Post-abortive women are deeply concerned about, and protective of, other women who face the same problems and pressures," Reardon said. "They're also turned off by people who don't understand the pressures women face."
Reardon says post-abortive women do not generally support easier access to abortion, federal funding for abortion, or the nomination of federal judges who will strike down abortion regulations. Instead, he claims, the biggest impact abortion has on their voting patterns is related to their perceptions of acceptance.
"Generally, what post-abortive women are looking for in others is understanding and compassion," he said. "But while on one hand they can no longer swallow the pro-abortionists' argument that abortion is a good thing, they also fear that anyone who readily condemns abortion is also ready to condemn them."
Reversing the Gender Gap presents evidence and arguments for the claim that pro-life candidates will make great gains at the polls when they begin to directly address this fear of rejection.
"When a pro-abortion candidate declares 'I'm pro-choice, but my opponent is against choice,' what the post-abortive woman hears is, 'I don't judge you, but my opponent does,'" Reardon said. "This inference will stick, unless pro-life candidates directly address this inherent fear of judgment, acknowledge the pressures women feel to have abortions, and offer positive solutions."
Reardon believes pro-life politicians need to move beyond explaining why they are against abortion to a platform that emphasizes proposals for helping women both to avoid abortions and to recover from past abortions.
"This message will not only neutralize the gender gap, it will reverse it," he said. "Post-abortive women are yearning to have their pain, loss, and regrets understood and respected. While they recoil from judgment, they are attracted to authentic concern and compassion."
Polling data reported in Reversing the Gender Gap also suggests that pro-life efforts to address the problem of coerced abortions will produce significant political gains for pro-life candidates.
"Between 30 and 60 percent of women who have had abortions felt pressured by others to submit to an abortion," Reardon said. "Candidates need to boldly and consistently articulate their desire to 'prevent unwanted, unnecessary, and unsafe abortions' and to 'promote healing for those who already suffer from past abortions.' These two themes will strongly resonate with the real needs and concerns of post-abortive women."
Reardon calls this alternative to the traditional pro-life message a "pro-woman/pro-life" approach. He believes this message will also help pro-life politicians to break down the stereotype that pro-lifers are judgmental and condemning. And he says this should help them build bridges to other constituents as well, including the families and friends of post-abortive women.
Reardon believes that the combination of facts, strategy tips, and sound bites included in the booklet will empower candidates to "boldly, confidently, and compassionately" address the real concerns of post-abortive women. Moreover, he says, the new polling data in the booklet suggests that the time is ripe for aligning public opinion behind a pro-woman/pro-life message. If this pro-woman message becomes a centerpiece of campaigns, Reardon believes, pro-life politicians will be able to shift the voting patterns of 30 million post-abortive women, and their sympathizers, to their favor by several percentage points. This advantage can grow even stronger if pro-life candidates incessantly challenge their opponents to state whether or not they will support post-abortion counseling programs and legislation that would help hold abortionists more properly liable for abortion-related injuries.
The Elliot Institute is asking pro-life organizations and activists to distribute Reversing the Gender Gap to all elected pro-life officials and candidates in their region or state. A FREE e-book version of Reversing the Gender Gap is available for download. Advanced orders for printed copies of the booklet, suitable for mailing in a standard business size envelope, can be placed by calling 1-217-525-8202.
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Additional materials and fact sheets to assist candidates to articulate the pro-women/pro-life message are being prepared and will be distributed through the email list described in the back of the booklet. More information, including this news release, can be found at www.afterabortion.info/news/gap.htm.