Most Americans support legal abortion, upholding Roe v. Wade: poll

·4 min read

Story at a glance

  • The majority of Americans believe the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade should be upheld, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. Nearly 60 percent say abortion should be legal in “all or most cases.”

  • 37 percent of adults surveyed say they believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, although that’s substantially less than the long-term average, at 42 percent.

  • Roughly 70 percent of adults surveyed say the decision to get an abortion should not be made by lawmakers and should be left to the pregnant woman and her doctor – down about 5 percentage points from November.

As reports of an initial draft abortion opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade dominate the news cycle, an ABC News/Washington Post poll published Tuesday finds that the majority of Americans support reproductive rights – and believe Roe should be upheld.

According to the poll, which was completed last week before a draft opinion in a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy was leaked to POLITICO, 58 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in “all or most cases.”

That’s consistent with the average – 56 percent – in nearly three dozen ABC/Post polls published since 1995, ranging from 49 percent to 60 percent.

Still, 37 percent of U.S. adults believe abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, according to the poll, which collected responses from just over 1,000 U.S. adults in April, down significantly over the long-term average of 42 percent.

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Another 57 percent say they oppose 15-week abortion bans and 54 percent believe the Supreme Court should uphold Roe, compared with 28 percent who say the ruling should be overturned, according to the ABC/Post poll, conducted by Langer Research Associates.

Still, support for upholding Roe is 6 percent lower than it was in an ABC/Post poll published in November, although preference for reversing it remains essentially unchanged.

Roughly 70 percent of adults surveyed believe the decision to get an abortion should be left to the pregnant woman and her doctor, not lawmakers. That’s down 5 percentage points from the November poll, when three-quarters of adults said women and their health care providers should have the final say.

Another 24 percent of adults say abortion access should be regulated by law, but 41 percent of them still believe a woman should have the ability to decide whether or not to have an abortion.

The ABC/Post poll notes that “trends are not consistent,” and while support for abortion rights is down slightly in some cases, it has skyrocketed in others. Support for abortion access is up 12 percentage points over November “when the woman cannot afford to have a child,” according to the poll. At 48 percent, support for legal abortion in this case is also the highest it’s been in polls dating back to 1996.

“Substantial majorities” also believe that abortion should be legal when a woman’s physical health is endangered, when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest and when there’s evidence of serious birth defects.

Responding to questions related to state-level action on abortion, 36 percent of adults surveyed say laws on abortion access in their state should remain the same, although most Americans are also unaware of specific abortion restrictions in the states in which they live.

Another 33 percent say access to abortion should be “easier” and 25 percent say abortion access should be more difficult than it is currently, according to the poll.

Nearly identical numbers say they would oppose a law in their state making abortions legal only during the first six weeks of pregnancy or only in the first 15 weeks, at 58 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Similarly, 36 percent of adults surveyed say they would support either law.

More than a dozen states have introduced six-week abortion bans and several more are considering 15-week bans – including Mississippi, whose law is at the center of the case pending before the Supreme Court.

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