By Geoff Mulvihill And Linley Sanders
The majority of U.S. adults, including those living in states with the strictest limits on abortion, want it to be legal at least through the initial stages of pregnancy, a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds.
The poll was conducted in late June, one year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, undoing a nationwide right to abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years. It comes as state lawmakers in Republican-led states have moved to drastically limit abortion access and as GOP presidential candidates wrestle with how to approach the issue.
While the laws have changed over the past year, the poll found that opinions on abortion remain much as they were a year ago: complex, with most people believing abortion should be allowed in some circumstances and not in others. Overall, about two-thirds of Americans say abortion should generally be legal, but only about a quarter say it should always be legal and only about 1 in 10 say it should always be illegal.
By 24 weeks of pregnancy, most Americans think their state should generally not allow abortions.
That’s true for 34-year-old Jaleesha Thomas, of Chicago. “I’d rather the person abort the baby than harm the baby or throw the baby out or anything,” she said in an interview. But she said that around 20 weeks into pregnancy, she thinks abortion should not usually be an option. “When they’re fully developed and the mother doesn’t have any illnesses or anything that would cause the baby or her to pass away, it’s like you’re killing another human,” she said.
Thomas’ state allows abortion until the fetus would be viable, generally considered to be around 24 weeks, and has become a destination for people from neighboring Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin and other places with travel bans for abortions.
The poll finds that 1 in 10 Americans say they know someone who has either been unable to get an abortion or who has had to travel to get one in the last year, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — and that this is especially common among young people, people of color and those living in states where abortion is banned at all stages of pregnancy.
Nearly half the states now allow abortion until between 20 and 27 weeks but bar it later than that in most cases. Before the end of Roe, almost every state fell in that range. Now, abortion is banned — with varying exceptions — at all stages of pregnancy in 14 states, including much of the South.
The poll found that 73% of all U.S. adults, including 58% of those in states with the strictest bans, believe abortion should be allowed at six weeks of pregnancy. Just one state currently has a ban in effect that kicks in around then. That’s Georgia, where abortion is banned once cardiac activity can be detected — around six weeks and before women often know they’re pregnant. Ohio and South Carolina have similar bans that are not being enforced because of court action, and Florida has one that hasn’t taken effect. Iowa lawmakers late Tuesday passed a bill that would add it to those ranks once it is signed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds later this week.
About half of Americans say abortions should be permitted at the 15-week mark, though 55% of those living in the most restrictive states say abortion should be banned by that point.
And by 24 weeks, about two-thirds of Americans, including those who live in states with the fewest restrictions, say it should be barred.
While most GOP-controlled state governments have been pushing for more abortion restrictions, the poll finds that there’s not always support for doing so. Nationally, about 4 in 10 people said it was too difficult to access abortion in their community, compared with about a quarter who think it’s too easy.
Robert Green, an 89-year-old politically independent rancher in Wyoming, where a judge has put on hold a ban on abortion throughout pregnancy, said he’s supported abortion rights since before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. “There’s a lot of reasons,” he said. “Not the least of which: The people who don’t want kids and go on and have them — the kids usually suffer for it.”
People in states with the strictest bans were slightly more likely to say abortion was too difficult to access compared with those living in the least restrictive states. Overall, about half of Democrats say it’s too difficult, compared with 22% of Republicans.
And women were more likely to say access was too challenging in their area. For both Republicans and Democrats, there was not much of a gender divide on the topic: About half of both Democratic men and women found it too challenging, and around 2 in 10 GOP men and women did. But nearly half of independent women thought so, compared with about one-third of independent men.
The poll of 1,220 adults was conducted June 22-26 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.