NRL News

What Google Can Tell Us About the Abortion Debate

by | Apr 27, 2022

By Kelsey Hazzard, Secular Pro-Life

I follow quite a few pro-abortion activists on Twitter, and they are in a poor mood. That’s unsurprising, given that the Supreme Court could be a few short weeks away from reversing Roe. Already, pro-life states around the country have made strides in protecting babies that would not have been feasible a few short years ago. The Texas Heartbeat Act is a prime example. And what seems to frustrate our loyal opposition the most is that, while they feel like the sky is falling, the general public has reacted with a shrug. Their hoped-for backlash isn’t materializing. 

Data from Google Trends bear that out. When the Texas Heartbeat Act went into effect last September, mainstream media were apoplectic. That was supposed to rally the pro-choice troops. But according to Google, interest did not reach previous highs, and quickly subsided:

Since then, there has been a flurry of legislative activity on abortion. Oklahoma banned abortion at all ages. None of it even caused a blip. 

For context, let’s examine what was happening in 2019. Google’s measure of public interest in abortion hit a fifteen-year high in January 2019, when New York and Virginia considered extreme pro-abortion laws. [Former Virginia] Governor Northam’s scandalous “keep the baby comfortable” remarks were all over the news. Just five months later, in May 2019, the prior record was shattered: 

Pro-life legislative efforts in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and elsewhere; the possibility of Missouri becoming the first abortion-free state since Roe, if the courts allow it to close the dangerous St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility; Democratic candidates competing to out-abortion each other in the 2020 presidential primary… all of these things and more have combined to create a perfect storm of media coverage. People who normally prefer to sit out the debate are forced to take notice.

Those folks are sitting out the debate again, and abortion lobbyists know it. They are already trying to preemptively wave away Democrats’ 2022 midterm losses. The notion that voters will punish pro-life legislators for Dobbs is wishful thinking. Instead, fence-sitters will quietly adopt more pro-life positions because that will be the new status quo.