Last June, the United States Supreme Court, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the federal right to an abortion. In the aftermath of that decision, abortion has reemerged as a top political issue for many voters, legislators, and activist lawyers.
In the 2022 midterm elections, abortion was an issue that motivated many voters to get out and vote, especially female voters. Notably, in Kansas and Michigan, where pre-existing abortion rights delineated on State Constitutions were on the ballot, voters turned out in large numbers to keep those rights.
Legislatively, since the Court’s decision was handed down, many Republican states have passed laws further restricting access to abortion procedures while Democratic states have moved to protect access to the procedure.
Lastly, the ruling has also led to more abortion related litigation, most notably in relation to the medication mifepristone which is used in medication abortion procedures.
Last week, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies asked American voters about their views on abortion.
On the morality of the procedure itself, a plurality of Americans (37%) say that it depends on the circumstances. Overall, 29% of Americans believe abortion is generally morally acceptable, while 24% believe it is generally morally wrong.
While Americans have mixed opinions on the morality of abortion, clear majorities are supportive of some abortion access and exceptions.
While 35% of respondents say they would prefer that the procedure should be banned either from the moment of conception or by the 6th week of pregnancy, 31% say they would prefer restrictions on abortions from the 10th week of pregnancy (just before the start of the second trimester) or a later standpoint, and 21% believe there should be no prohibitions on abortion at all.
Just 17% of Americans believe there should be no exceptions to laws prohibiting abortions. Majorities say there should be exceptions in the instances of rape, incest, and endangerment to the life of the mother. Large pluralities also say there should be exceptions in instances where the general health of the mother is at risk (48%) or when a foetus is unviable or has severe abnormalities (44%).
As far as they themselves are aware of each party’s respective positions, 51% of respondents say they lean towards the Democratic Party’s position on abortion, whereas 34% say they lean towards the Republican position. In the South, where many states have recently introduced new restrictions on abortion, 49% of respondents lean towards the Democratic position, whereas 35% lean towards the Republican position.
Perhaps surprisingly, as many as 49% of Americans say they would support an amendment to the United States Constitution protecting abortion rights. Half as many (24%) would oppose such an amendment.
Adopting such an amendment would require the support of a two-thirds majority in Congress and three quarters of the states, a practical hurdle which renders the likelihood of passing such an amendment extremely slim.
Other attempts to protect abortion rights at the federal level, including the Women’s Health Protection Act, have been introduced by Democrats in Congress, but face little chance of becoming law due to the opposition of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. As such, abortion remains a live electoral, legislative, and legal issue, and is sure to feature prominently as the United States moves into the 2024 Presidential Election cycle.