clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

We asked people about abortion. Their answers were powerful.

If you buy something from a Vox link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

There was one finding in our new poll on abortion, that shocked me: 39 percent of people chose “both” or “neither” rather than “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” That’s nearly four in 10 Americans who say the typical labels in the abortion debate don’t apply to them.

But in a way, it also wasn’t surprising. I hate being put in a box about even small things like having a favorite color. And this is as complicated and personal an issue as they come.

Abortion 39 percent circle graph

I wanted to understand what it meant to people when they picked — or avoided — these labels, and put an actual face to the statistics we’d gathered. So I grabbed a camera and walked to a crossroads of the country, Times Square in New York City. I asked strangers of all kinds — visitors from Kentucky and New Mexico and North Carolina, as well as locals — if they would talk to me about abortion.

Incredibly, many did. And just as our poll had suggested, some did answer both and neither when given the option. Perhaps even more surprising, those who did choose labels didn’t necessarily fit into the “pro-choice” or “pro-life” categories that often define the debate. Sometimes their thinking evolved just by following their own train of thought.

This is what I took away from spending two days interviewing strangers about abortion: People don’t fit into boxes. They are thoughtful, empathetic, complicated — much more so than our political discussion around abortion gives them credit for. And they know this isn’t an easy or simple issue.

Results from our poll, and my conversations in Times Square, are above. For many more videos, Subscribe to Vox on YouTube.