WASHINGTON – A majority of Americans say Congress should pass a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide, according to a new poll that finds over half say they feel at least somewhat “sad” or “angry” about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The high court’s decision asserted that abortion is not a constitutional right and handed states the authority to severely restrict or ban abortion. The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll shows many Americans back some restrictions on abortion, especially after the first trimester, but the most extreme measures introduced in some Republican-led states are at odds with the public — and with many of the people who live in them.
Faith Murphy, a 41-year-old in Coshocton, Ohio, said she was “quite upset” that the court overruled Roe and wants to see abortion access federally protected. While she's voted across the aisle, Murphy considers herself a Republican and doesn't want to see Republican leaders in her state and others push for restrictions.
“I don’t trust who we have in government here in Ohio ... to keep women’s rights or the right to an abortion for any reason whatsoever intact,” Murphy said.
Polling ahead of the June 24 decision suggested that overturning Roe would be unpopular with a majority of Americans who wanted to see the court uphold the 50-year precedent. The new poll, roughly three weeks after the decision, finds 53% of U.S. adults say they disapprove of the court’s decision, while 30% say they approve. An additional 16% say they neither approve nor disapprove.
Sixty percent think Congress should pass a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide. The House last Friday voted to restore abortion rights in the U.S., though the bill will likely stall in the Senate.
Overwhelming majorities also think their state should generally allow abortion in specific cases, including if the health of the pregnant person is endangered or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Few think abortion should always be illegal, and most Americans support their state generally allowing abortion six weeks into the pregnancy.
Those patterns persist even in the 23 states in which laws banning or tightening access to abortion have taken effect, will soon take effect or are being debated in court.
Blake Jones thinks six weeks “is far too early to be able to make a decision like that,” and while he personally doesn’t approve of abortion, the 28-year-old Democrat in Athens, Georgia, said he's pro-choice because he doesn’t believe “that my views should affect other people.”
Jones said he thinks the point of viability is more appropriate for restrictions on abortion, but even then, there should be exceptions if the pregnant person’s health is at risk or the baby would be born with a severe health issue.
Views about abortion at the 15-week mark are muddled. The poll shows Americans in states that have deepened restrictions on abortion are closely divided over abortion at 15 weeks into a pregnancy. That compares with about 6 in 10 Americans in other states saying abortion should be allowed at that point. That gap is similar on allowing abortion for “any reason."
Support dwindles across the board at 24 weeks into the pregnancy, with only about a third saying their state should generally allow for that.
While only about a third approve of the Supreme Court's decision, the poll finds about half of Americans think states should be responsible for establishing abortion laws.
Jeffrey Bouchelle agreed with the court because “it should’ve been a states’ rights issue in the first place.” The 57-year-old Republican in Farmers Branch, Texas, believes abortion is wrong, but as a state issue. Bouchelle accepted some states may allow abortion if that’s what the majority prefers.
“There should be access to abortion,” he said. “I just don’t think it should be in Texas.”
Overall, about a third of U.S. adults say they feel at least somewhat proud, relieved or excited about the court’s decision, a reflection that the decades-long effort to overturn Roe resonates with a sizable segment of the population.
“I’m happy with it,” Tammy Rardain said about the court’s decision. The 54-year-old Republican in Logan, Ohio, said her views on abortion are defined by her Christian faith. She wants to see a ban on abortion in Ohio at any point in the pregnancy.
More Americans — 55% — say they feel at least somewhat angry or sad about the decision, including about 4 in 10 who feel so strongly. Half say they feel at least somewhat anxious or hopeless — a sign that Democrats may struggle to turn feelings of anger into motivation to turn out to vote in this year’s midterm elections.
“I was really disappointed, and I felt as though our judicial system had failed us all,” said 41-year-old Democrat Candice Lampkin. “I truly believe that they’re infringing upon our civil rights and liberties.”
The Chicago resident said she wants abortion to be a federally protected right and is concerned about what health care, like birth control, might be targeted next. She hopes the issue will be top of mind for voters this fall.
“We have to do more during election season and make sure we hold our politicians accountable," she said.
The poll of 1,085 adults was conducted July 14-17 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 3.9 percentage points.