Independence Institute column in Denver Daily News distorted abortion poll

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

An opinion piece written for the conservative Independence Institute and reprinted in the Denver Daily News distorted the results of a 2003 survey on women's views about abortion, falsely claiming that 62 percent of poll respondents believe abortion is an "act of murder." In fact, 51 percent of those polled said they feel that way.

In a November 24 column written for the conservative Independence Institute -- a version of which was reprinted in the November 27 edition of the Denver Daily News -- Katherine Secrest distorted the results of a 2003 survey on women's views toward abortion. According to Secrest, "A poll done [in 2003] by the Susan B. Anthony List discovered that a whopping 62 percent of women think abortion is 'wrong, and an act of murder.' " In fact, results from a 2003 CNN/Time poll posted on the Susan B. Anthony List's website -- the only poll currently on the website that broke down data by gender -- indicate only that 62 percent of the women surveyed "believe having an abortion is wrong." The results of a separate inquiry from the same poll show that 51 percent of the women surveyed believe "abortion is an act of murder."

The Independence Institute column, "My Choice," takes issue with op-ed pieces in The Denver Post that examined "the dwindling number of Republican women in Colorado politics." According to the column:

On July 25, Julia Martinez of the Denver Post wrote an op-ed piece about the dwindling number of Republican women in Colorado politics. She and CSU political science professor John Straayer wondered if "candidate gatekeepers in the Republican party are keeping women out of the game."

Denver Post political analyst Fred Brown pondered the same question in a column on September 2. According to Brown's column, twenty years ago, Republican women in the Colorado General Assembly outnumbered Democratic women 2-1.

Now, there are only 6 Republican women versus 27 Democratic women. Brown posits that Republican women are increasingly bothered by the "narrowmindedness" of their party. He, too, quotes John Straayer who argues women do not identify with conservative social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, gun rights, prayer in schools, and open displays of patriotism.

Secrest wrote, "By capitalizing on Colorado's legislative roster, Brown and Martinez push an increasingly widespread misconception about the Republican Party: It is run by, and exists solely for, men. According to this assumption, women cannot possibly relate to conservative social policies; specifically those on abortion and religion, and so they reject the Party." To support her argument, Secrest points to abortion statistics, claiming, "Contrary to what the media would have you believe, pro life women are equal in number, if not greater in number, than pro-choice women." Secrest further stated:

A 2003 article in the Washington Times titled "Pro-Life Women Shift to the Majority" reports the findings of a study by the Center for the Advancement of Women: 51 percent of the women surveyed said the government should prohibit abortion or limit it to the extreme cases, such as rape, incest, or life-threatening situations.

A poll done the same year by the Susan B. Anthony List discovered that a whopping 62 percent of women think abortion is "wrong, and an act of murder."

While it is true that, according to the poll Secrest cites, 62 percent of women surveyed think that "having an abortion is wrong," only 51 percent of women surveyed think that "abortion is an act of murder":

January 2003 -- CNN/TIME

"Regardless of whether you think abortion should be allowed or not, do you personally believe having an abortion is wrong?"

"Some people say abortion is an act of murder, while other people disagree. What is your view -- do you think abortion is an act of murder or don't you feel that way?"

CNN/Time Poll conducted 1/15-16/03; surveyed 1,010 adults.

Citing a July 2, 2003, article in The Washington Times, Secrest also suggested that "pro-life women had shifted to the majority." According to the Times, "Fifty-one percent of women surveyed by the Center for the Advancement of Women said the government should prohibit abortion or limit it to extreme cases, such as rape, incest, or life-threatening complications." However, as Media Matters for America has noted (here, here, here, and here), other polls consistently demonstrate that a majority of Americans identify themselves as "pro-choice," not "pro-life."

From Katherine Secrest's column, "Women care about values, morals and ethics, too," printed in the November 27 edition of the Denver Daily News as the Independence Institute's weekly contribution:

In 2003, the Washington Times reported that pro-life women had shifted to the majority: 51 percent of the women surveyed said the government should prohibit abortion or limit it to very extreme circumstances.

Also in 2003, the Susan B. Anthony List discovered that a whopping 62 percent of women think abortion is "wrong, and an act of murder."

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