This Is the Pro-Life Generation
After months of planning and preparation, my favorite moment at the March for Life every year is right before the official rally begins. I step on stage and look out at an endless expanse of people from all corners of this country gathered to march for the unborn. The large majority are youth -- joyful, enthusiastic teenagers, tweens and millennials who are literally bursting with excitement at the prospect of building a culture of life. It makes all of the work worth it.
In my work in the pro-life movement, I’m fortunate to encounter many young people who are passionate about protecting human life from the moment of conception. We call them the pro-life generation, not just because of their passion for the cause, but because they were born years after — in many cases decades after — Roe v. Wade legalized abortion across the country. This generation hasn’t just seen ultrasound images of unborn children, they’ve seen advancements in technology allowing younger and younger babies to survive — and thrive — after a premature birth.
In large part due to these passionate activists, the pro-life movement is winning hearts and minds on abortion. A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that a majority of Americans (54 percent) say that abortion “goes against my personal beliefs.” The same poll found a majority of women (51 percent) as well as a majority of men (55 percent) say abortion should not be covered by health insurance plans.
But one data point from the PRRI poll received a great deal of media attention: Roughly a third of Americans ages 18-29 said their views on abortion have changed within the last five years, with 25 percent saying they became more supportive while 9 percent said they became less supportive. When all age groups were included, the poll found that respondents who said they changed their perspective on abortion were almost equally likely to report becoming more supportive (12 percent) or more opposed (11 percent).
A batch of headlines soon followed the poll about how young people are shifting left on abortion. But there is abundant evidence showing millennials are more pro-life than their parents. A recent Gallup poll found that “young adults were slightly more likely than all other age groups, including seniors, to say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.” Gallup also said Americans ages 18-29 were “trending more anti-abortion.”
A Marist poll released earlier this year found that among respondents ages 18-29, 47 percent said that abortion was more likely to do harm to a woman’s life than good, while just 39 percent said abortion was more likely to improve a woman’s life.
The poll also found that young adults support significant restrictions on abortion. Just 17 percent said abortion should be available throughout an entire pregnancy. Twenty-three percent would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy, while 29 percent would permit abortion only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Even if they call themselves pro-choice, young adults support common-sense restrictions on abortion.
A recent Rasmussen poll found that while a plurality of likely voters support the Department of Justice’s investigation into Planned Parenthood’s sale of fetal tissue, a majority of young adults — 51 percent — support the investigation.
Separate from contentious political debates, fewer Americans are undergoing abortions. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the U.S. abortion rate has dropped to its lowest level in decades. The CDC said that in 2013, there were 12.5 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44. That’s half the abortion rate of 1980.
Nowhere is the face of the pro-life movement more evident than the annual March for Life. Every year, over 100,000 people participate in the march to protest abortion. Roughly a quarter of these marchers are high school or college age. With their friends and classmates, these passionate young adults travel to march in rain, sleet, wind and snow in protest of the violence of abortion. While they’re at it, they share with the world why they’re doing so on social media. This pro-life generation will continue to do so not until abortion is illegal, but until it is unthinkable.