Sarah Palin and the American Public on Abortion

Since 1973 the General Social Survey has regularly asked American adults the following question: “Please tell me whether or not you think it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain a legal abortion if she became pregnant as a result of rape?”

Sarah Palin’s answer to this question is “no.” This chart shows the percentage of Americans who share her view and the percentage who do not. The data can be accessed here.

12 thoughts on “Sarah Palin and the American Public on Abortion

  1. Pingback: Sarah Palin and the American Public on Abortion

  2. Should check out her Couric interview aired last night I think. Just watched it. She says she would personally encourage a rape victim to “choose life,” but she doesn’t think anyone should go to jail for having an abortion.

    That’s nice to know, at least. (The clip you link to is 2006.)

    Just to be fair…

  3. Steve,

    Maybe she’s changed her position, but I’m not convinced. Here’s the exchange between Katie Couric and Palin (the link is

    COURIC: But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?

    PALIN: I’m saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And, um, if you’re asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an … abortion, absolutely not. That’s nothing I would ever support.

    One possibility you can read from this is that she’s gone pro-choice. That seems pretty unlikely to me. Another is that she’d favor a law that puts doctors who perform abortions, rather than the women who have them, in jail. Same effect: no legal abortion.


  4. Consider alternative questions as they are also interesting.

    1. Please tell me if you think it should be legally permissible for a person who has a child in her womb to take the life of that child without the rights of the child also being protected when that child was brought into the world through an act of rape?

    2. Please tell me if you think a doctor should be able to legally take the life of a child in the womb if that child was brought into the world through an act of rape?

    3. Please tell me if a child who was the result of rape has any less rights to life than one who was not the result of rape?

    4. Please tell me if we have any less obligation to protect the life of a child who was the result of rape than a child who was not?


  5. We should distinguish between the legality issue on the one hand and punishment on the other. For example, one could be opposed to putting a person in jail for x, but still be highly in favor of x being illegal. The fact that x should be illegal does not necessarily mean that (a) civil punishment follows, or (b) a certain form of civil punishment follows. Palin can be against this or that punishment under this or that circumstance, but still be *against* unjustified homicide and *for* the protection of human beings in the womb against unjustified homicide.

    We should also recall to mind that cases of rape account for less than 1% of abortion cases.


  6. Or one could simply ask whether the government should have the power to compel any person to use their organs to keep another person alive.

    Justifying abortion because of rape seems beside the point: children are typically born in 9 months, yet the average state rape trial may take much longer than that; were we to take the woman’s word for the circumstances surrounding her pregnancy – assuming a claim of rape is sufficient proof for federal judicial standards to allow a medically safe abortion – what would prevent women who have not been raped from claiming rape in order to receive medical services? Certainly lying is a better choice than seeking an illegal abortion, which so frequently resulted in sterility, sexual abuse or death for the women seeking them prior to Roe.

    Maybe a better question to ask would be whether women should live in fear of sex? It hardly seems appropriate in this day and age, when we know comprehensive sex education, access to contraception and participation as adults in an abuse-free relationship are keys to women not only preventing abortion, but preventing unwanted pregnancy in the first place.

  7. We all say that we want leaders who are unafraid to clearly state their positions, instead of just bending with the wind.

    So, Palin’s position on the issue is not the popular one.

    Take the specific individual and the specific position out of the equation and ask yourself:

    Don’t we want leaders who are willing to articulate their unpopular positions instead of hiding in a sea of equivocation ?

    Must every politician bend to the day’s 51% position on every issue ? Why have leaders at all then ? Just have a daily poll.

    Certainly if a politician you liked were to be outspoken about a heartfelt position that was unpopular you would show the same graphs as evidence of their courage, rather than evidence of their being out-of-step with public opinion.

  8. Murph makes sense – and this column is rather meaningless. Unless you’re prepared to say the majority is always right – a bit puzzling if the majority ever changes on any issue – what’s the point of writing that a politician has taken a position that most don’t now embrace?

    I applaud Palin for taking this position. I’ve never understood how anyone can say “abortion is wrong because the fetus is a life” – and thus should be “rare” (the Hillary Clinton view for example – or John Kerry’s — and Al Gore’s) but we must allow that human being to be slaughtered if his or her creation was due to the lack of consent of both partners at conception.

    Hey, by that logic, why stop in the womb? If the fetus is a life, and rape is justification for slaughter – wouldn’t the 13 year old resemble the rapist more than the fetus? And thus be more painful to the mother? And how about when the child is the rapist’s current age? Say, at 23 – at 34? Isn’t there more reason to terminate the life then due to mom’s anguish?

    The only thing I don’t approve in Palin’s statement is the silly “can’t punish mom for killing others” attempt to appease. If mom’s guilty of slaughtering the innocent, how can one approve of a “once raped, can always slay the progeny” exemption?

  9. I don’t believe that Sarah Palin answering that question is relevant.

    I want to know from where her belief comes…faith or science.

    We live in a country that seperates church and state. She is running for public office in that country.

    Even though I personally would not have an abortion, because like I learned in Sunday school…” the Bible tells me so…”, that same Bible tells many people things I don’t agree with.

    Leave religion and faith as a personal belief and choice.

    I think as people of faith, we should consider trying to control abortion through decipleship. I am sure that where the heart goes, there too the womb shall follow.

    Abortions will not stop until there is no demand for them.

  10. deep 6 says:

    Or one could simply ask whether the government should have the power to compel any person to use their organs to keep another person alive.

    But a few things need to be noted here.

    First, there is a sense in which we use our organs to keep other people alive all the time. Not doing so can be seen as neglect. Say that I had a 2 year old child and refused to use my body to provide food for it and the child died when in fact I could easily have done so and when in fact it was my child and I was responsible for taking care of it by virtue of being its parent. That would be problematic, legally and morally. The government would step in and say that I had done something quite illegal and wrong.

    Second, the first thing people need to understand about sexual relations is that they may result and sometimes do result in a child in the womb. Let all beware of the risks and possible consequences. Sexual acts between male and female of the type we are talking about are inherently purposive with respect to reproduction. Most women know that they can end up with a human being in their body as a result of these acts and choose to participate in the acts anyway, in the typical cases. The government does not generally force women to have sexual relations. It does not force them to have a child in the womb.

    Third, once the child is on the womb we have to ask whether a mother or physician has the right to take the life of the child and whether the government should protect not just the right to life of the child in the womb but the actual life of the child in the womb. It is not just about making someone remain pregnant or not. It is about taking the life of someone who exists in someone else. Given that we were all once in the womb, we might reconsider the matter. If my own mother had taken my life when I was in the womb, I would not be writing this today. We all passed through that stage of development.

    Fourth, dependency is not generally a sufficient reason to commit homicide. Lots of people are dependent on other people and we do not generally think that they give over their right to life by virtue of being dependent. Every child just out of the womb is still highly dependent on the organs of another person.

    Fifth, ‘abortion’ is not just a failure to provide the proper conditions for life to continue. Abortions, for the most part, are deliberate attempts to take the life of human being in the prenatal stage of development. That is homicide. Homicide may be justified under certain circumstances but it does not follow that it is usually justified or always justified or justified for no reason at all. It does not follow that it is justified on demand or for the sake of convenience. Treating abortion as a failure to keep another person alive is to miss the point of what is happening. If I were to deliberately take an instrument and place it into the womb when the womb had a child in it and knowingly move the instrument in such a way to destroy the body of the child so that it would die I would not merely be failing to keep the child alive. I would be taking the life of the child. That would be homicide. The government is generally interested in homicide cases and whether they are justified or not.


  11. I would also say that this is not primarily about religion or faith. This is about homicide and the morality of homicide. It is about principles of interpersonal behavior that we know long before we get to Special Revelation. If a man kills a 2 year old and someone says that he should not have and calls the police we are not concerned about the faith or religion of any of the people involved. We are concerned about the morality of homicide which society tends to assume people know about regardless of religion or faith and aside from religion and faith.

    Sure, some are against intrauterine homicide because of their religion, completely or in part, but even long before we get to religion there is plenty to be concerned about when it comes to homicide.

    Representatives should tell us if x is homicide and they should be against unjustified homicide, regardless of their religion or faith. If we start electing people who think unjustified homicide is ok, we need to think twice about whether we really want that person representing us and making laws over and against us. I suspect Palin tends to think that ‘abortion’ is intrauterine or prenatal homicide and that it stands in need of sufficient justification if it is going to be done. That is just the standard position against homicide in general applied to the prenatal stage of development. That is not a far stretch. Nor is it a far-stretch to provide some basic protection to the human being in the womb. And, again, in being concerned about intrauterine homicide we are not imposing religion on state. We are imposing morality on state. If people want a state without morality and so a separation of morality and state, that is an entirely different matter than a separation of religion and state.


  12. eric tellfer:

    your analogy of using your organs to sustain life by feeding your child is a false parallel. you are not compelled to care for the child. you can give it away. you cant with a previable fetus. and making dinner for someone is VASTLY differant from someone LIVING INSIDE YOU and sucking nutrients out of your body against your will. they cant even be compared to degree of violation.

    putting the instrument into the womb and moving it around to take the child out is the only way to remove it. unless she takes ru-486, it is the only way to stop the fetus from using my body.

    if your mom had aborted you, you would never have known. we cant use the potential for life to override existing life. just because we were all in that developemental stage at one time doesnt mean we had inherant rights then.

    born people can be heavily dependant on another person, but whoever helps that person can be many differant people. those helpless people still remain physiologically independant individuals. an organism that requires an invasive existence inside another organism cant be truly individual.

    the govt doesnt force people to have sex, but in some cases, such as rape victims, the govt would be extending their victimization. when they were raped, they were reduced to sex objects. they were dehumanized by having their bodies, their very selves denied them. if they are forced to remain pregnant, it is the same situation all over again. only this time it is for 9 months. i cannot imagine a more violating situation than a forced pregnancy. it is literally a 9 month long rape.

    the fact that the fetus does exist in someone else is the whole debate. the debate is about who has bodily sovereignty. who has a right to control their body. the fetus or the woman. i say the woman because she is the the only one that can stand alone without the fetus. the fetus cant.

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