Last week, the Pew Research Center released a report on a survey of US adults’ opinions on the morality of various issues relating to the unborn. As shown below, about half of the respondents believed abortion was morally wrong, but low percentages claimed embryonic stem cell research and the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) were immoral. Pew also found that about the same percentage of respondents who said embryonic stem cell research is immoral felt that non-embryonic stem cell research is immoral.
Pro-lifers should take serious note of these results.
Pew’s survey report is important because it shows that issues relating to the unborn are gaining prominence. Even a recent Gallup survey asked respondents about the morality of abortion, birth control, embryonic stem cell research, and human cloning.
Pew’s survey report is also important because it shows that there’s significant variance from issue to issue in respondents’ opinions about the morality of killing the unborn. In particular, there’s a significant gap between the percentage of respondents who find abortion immoral (49 percent) and the percentages who believe embryonic stem cell research (22 percent) or IVF (12 percent) are immoral. This gap suggests that some respondents could be unaware that IVF and embryonic stem cell research involve millions of abortions. Thus, if enlightened about this fact, some respondents could change their minds.
Despite the importance of Pew’s survey report, it could be more complete and instructive. For one, Pew’s survey could measure opinions of additional key issues relating to the unborn, including the use of contraceptive pills that can destroy embryos by preventing implantation in the womb, human cloning, genetic testing of fetuses, and genetic modification of embryos.
Also, Pew’s survey, which was cross-sectional, could become longitudinal. Being cross-sectional, Pew’s survey only shows a snap-shot of U.S. adults’ opinions about the morality of issues relating to the unborn. If the survey became longitudinal, it would track the opinions of the same individuals over time and could start surveying individuals in childhood. Thus, a longitudinal survey could reveal determinants of individuals’ opinions about issues relating to the unborn. For example, it’s possible that individuals’ opinions of the use of contraceptive pills that can destroy embryos could influence the individuals’ opinions of IVF and human cloning.
Pew’s survey report should give pro-lifers some hope that they can win more people’s hearts and minds. If Pew improves its survey as described above, pro-lifers could use Pew’s data to develop better approaches to educate people about the morality of issues relating to the unborn.