The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) conducts polling about the role of religion in American life. Its stated purpose is to be “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.” Its partnerships with The Atlantic and the Brookings Institution would place its political orientation as left of center, but not radical.
In October 2019, the institute released a study titled “Younger Americans More Likely to Support Abortion Legality Than Any Other Age Group.” The text reported that “Younger Americans (ages 18-29) are more supportive of abortion compared to other age groups. Nearly six in ten (59%) younger Americans support abortion legality in all or most cases, compared to 54% of adults ages 30-49, 53% of adults ages 50-64, and 49% of seniors (ages 65 and older).”
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The Unknown Forty Percent
While pro-abortion supporters may welcome this support from youth as good news, there is a troubling side. The figure implies that about 40% of young people oppose legal abortion. It shows that the pro-life movement is remarkably robust in the face of a hostile culture.
Several facts buttress this conclusion.
First, every adult who was alive when the Supreme Court handed down its disastrous decision in Roe v Wade (1973) is now over 65. No one under the age of 47 ever drew a breath in an America in which abortion was illegal. Despite this long period, the law remains unsettled. It is even more controversial now as it was in 1973. Four out of ten young people oppose something that has been “legal” since their parents were children.
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Secondly, these young people grew up in the most hypersexualized culture in human history. They had access to the dark side of the Internet since early childhood. Their televisions always portrayed cohabitation as a positive thing. Vulgar rap and other music is part of their youth culture. Vile language was tolerated in most of their schools. All these things favor the abortion mentality of sexual freedom. And still, forty percent of these youth are pro-life.
Finally, many young people came from “broken homes” as about 40 percent of marriages end in divorce. If some had the good fortune to live in intact families, many of their friends, schoolmates, and cousins did not. They lived in a society in which divorce was normal and an expression of sexual freedom.
In a world where religion played a diminishing role, these young people are amazing survivors of the culture war. Indeed, four out of ten young people lived through the most pro-death culture that Satan could throw at them, and yet still oppose the intentional deaths of pre-born children.
Maggie Astor of The New York Times decided to take a peek into the lives of these young people. She is a liberal political reporter and, therefore, hostile to pro-life causes. She published a recent story that reveals an unexpected passion for life among youth. The article appeared with the expressive title, “Trump Pushes Young Republicans Away. Abortion Pulls Them Back.”
She interviewed “two dozen Republicans ages 18 to 23.” Her overall assessment was that “almost all of them, while expressing fundamentally conservative views, identified at least one major issue on which they disagreed with the party line. But more often than not, they said one issue kept them committed to the party: abortion.”
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She quotes eight of the interviewees in her story. One of the most representative comments was from twenty-year-old Autumn Crawford, a Minnesotan studying at Ohio State University. “I’m of the firm belief that you can’t be pro-life and vote Democrat. I’m not pro-Trump. I will vote Republican because I will not vote Democrat, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.”
Why Not Ask Why?
Unfortunately, Maggie Astor did not ask or at least did not report, the interviewees’ reasons for being anti-abortion. It would have made her story more interesting. She is respectful but seems unwilling to understand how the people she interviewed could be both young and passionately pro-life.
Perhaps she would understand if she was to talk to the hundreds of thousands of young people who participate in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. She would find the survivors of the Culture War alive and well—and ready to take back America from the culture of death that has so disfigured the nation.