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Port: Please leave abortion to the states

Both the "keep your bans of my body" and "abortion is murder" positions are extreme points of view supported by very few Americans.

Protesters lined up Sunday, May 8, outside the Fargo Civic Memorial Auditorium and nearby City Hall to call for protection for the right to an abortion and for women's reproductive rights.
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MINOT, N.D. — As often happens with hot-button political topics, the abortion debate has been distilled by the news media and the pundits and the celebrity social media commentators down to a battle between two extremes.

Either you're shouting exhortations against abortion at women outside an abortion clinic, or you're marching outside a judge's house dressed up as a character from a Margaret Atwood novel.

Reality is more complicated than this. Both the "keep your bans of my body" and "abortion is murder" positions are extreme points of view supported by very few Americans.

According to extensive research by the Pew Foundation only 19% of Americans, including just 21% of women and just 30% of Democrats, think abortion should be legal in all instances without restrictions.

Just 8% of Americans believe the opposite, that abortion should be illegal in all instances.


A 56% majority of Americans, including 55% of women and 52% of Democrats, believe the length of time a woman should be pregnant should matter in determining whether abortion should be legal.

A lot of people are watching these Republican primaries. North Dakota's government is dominated by Republicans, and there is a pitched battle going on right now for the soul of the NDGOP. These legislative races are the trenches in that battle. So far, based on one of the few objective data points we have, it appears the traditional conservatives are positioned to keep their hold on the party.

Only 30% of women believe abortion should be legal at 24 weeks, with 48% saying the opposite.

It's accurate to say that most Americans think some form of abortion should be legal, but the conditions for that legality run the gamut from "only in cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother" to "only before 20 weeks" to "it should always be legal."

America's feelings about abortion are complicated. They're nuanced in ways that are diverse as Americans are.

This is why it's best to leave abortion policy to the states. We should be happy that a Democrat-backed bill to define what legal access to abortion looks like for all Americans in federal statute failed to garner even a simple majority in the Senate. We should oppose any Republican efforts to codify abortion restrictions at the federal level.

The travesty of Roe v. Wade is that it took the abortion question out of the political arena and instead created a one-size-fits-all judicial solution for everyone. One based on a "right" that was never written into our constitution in the first place.

The consequences of that act have roiled our society ever since.

We can do better.


Our federalist system of government leaves our nation uniquely qualified to do better, but it's going to require the majority of us who are in the middle on the abortion question to stop listening to the extremes and accept that abortion policy should be set through the political process in our state legislatures.

The policies created by some of those legislatures may irk and confound us, but that's the price of democracy.

It's a flawed process that often produces outcomes you or I might not like, but it's better than the alternative, which is judges, who are accountable to nobody, creating law for us.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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