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Support for Legal Abortion Has Risen Since Supreme Court Eliminated Protections, AP-NORC Poll Finds
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By Associated Press
Published 3 days ago on
July 9, 2024

As the November election nears, a new poll reveals a growing majority of Americans support unrestricted access to legal abortions, posing a challenge for anti-abortion candidates. (AP File)

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WASHINGTON — A solid majority of Americans oppose a federal abortion ban as a rising number support access to abortions for any reason, a new poll finds, highlighting a politically perilous situation for candidates who oppose abortion rights as the November election draws closer.

Increasing Support for Legal Abortion

Around 6 in 10 Americans think their state should generally allow a person to obtain a legal abortion if they don’t want to be pregnant for any reason, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That’s an increase from June 2021, a year before the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to the procedure, when about half of Americans thought legal abortion should be possible under these circumstances.

Americans are largely opposed to the strict bans that have taken effect in Republican-controlled states since the high court’s ruling two years ago. Full bans, with limited exceptions, have gone into effect in 14 GOP-led states, while three other states prohibit abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, before women often realize they’re pregnant.

Views on National Abortion Bans and Restrictions

They are also overwhelmingly against national abortion bans and restrictions. And views toward abortion — which have long been relatively stable — may be getting more permissive.

Vincent Wheeler, a 47-year-old Republican from Los Angeles, said abortion should be available for any reason until viability, the point at which health care providers say it’s possible for a fetus to survive outside the uterus.

“There’s so many reasons as to why someone may want or need an abortion that it has to be up to that person of what they have to do in that specific circumstance,” Wheeler said, acknowledging that some fellow Republicans might disagree.

Likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has declined to endorse a nationwide abortion ban, saying the issue should be left up to the states. But even that stance is likely to be unsatisfying to most Americans, who continue to oppose many bans on abortion within their own state, and think Congress should pass a law guaranteeing access to abortions nationwide, according to the poll.

Public Opinion on Abortion

Seven in 10 Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, a slight increase from last year, while about 3 in 10 think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

Robert Hood, a 69-year-old from Universal City, Texas, who identifies as an “independent liberal,” has believed that abortions should be allowed for any reason since he was an 18-year-old high school senior, because “life is full of gray situations.” He recalls reading stories as a teenager about women who died trying to get an abortion before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision provided a constitutional right to the procedure.

“Pregnancy is complicated,” he said. “Women should make the choice with the advice of their doctor and family, but at the end of the day it’s her choice and her body and her life.”

He said he would support national protections for abortion rights.

Views on abortion have long been nuanced and sometimes contradictory. The new AP-NORC survey shows that even though the country is largely antagonistic to restrictions on abortion, a substantial number of people hold opinions and values that are not internally consistent.

About half of those who say a woman should be able to get an abortion for any reason also say their state should not allow abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy and about one-quarter say their state should not allow abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

But the vast majority of Americans — more than 8 in 10 — continue to say abortion should be legal in extreme circumstances, such as when a patient’s life would be endangered by continuing the pregnancy. About 8 in 10 say the same about a pregnancy caused by rape or incest or when a fetal anomaly would prevent the child from surviving outside the womb.

National bans on abortion are broadly unpopular: Around 8 in 10 Americans say Congress should not pass a federal law banning abortion. About three-quarters say there should not be a federal law banning abortion at six weeks, and 6 in 10 oppose a federal law banning abortion at 15 weeks.

Most Republicans — about two-thirds, according to the survey — say a nationwide abortion ban should not happen.

On the campaign trail, Trump has courted anti-abortion voters by highlighting his appointment of three Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe. But his strategy on abortion policy has been to defer to the states, an attempt to find a more cautious stance on an issue that has become a major vulnerability for Republicans since the 2022 Dobbs decision.

Despite Trump’s statements, Penny Johnson, 73, from Sherman Oaks, California, said she is still afraid Republicans might pursue a national abortion ban if they win the White House and Congress in November.

The poll of 1,088 adults was conducted June 20-24, 2024, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.

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