Even as the Supreme Court appears primed to overturn Roe v. Wade, decades of polling data show that most Americans have long backed abortion rights, with a relatively stable majority expressing support for the view that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
Public sentiment on abortion rights has taken on a new urgency as state legislatures across the country could soon be in a position torestrict abortion or ban it outright after a draft opinion published by Politico suggested the Supreme Court has voted privately to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Such a stark reversal of the 1973 ruling would end the guaranteed right to abortion that American women have held for nearly 50 years.
Pew Research Center a nonpartisan research institute that has tracked attitudes toward abortion rights going back to the 1990s, found that support for abortion rights among the public has outpaced opposition since at least 1995. In fact, public support for abortion has rarely dipped below 50 percent. It did so once in 2001 and again in two surveys in 2009, according to Pew data, but support for abortion rights has hovered around 60 percent since 2016.
Opposition to abortion, or those who believe the procedure should be illegal in most or all cases, has likewise remained relatively consistent and in the minority, hovering between 36 and 48 percent since 1995, the Pew data show.
The data show that the views of the general population differ significantly from those of elected officials. According to the abortion rights advocacy think-tank the Guttmacher Institute, twenty-three states have enacted laws that could be used to restrict abortion access and, if this week’s draft opinion comes to fruition, the Supreme Court could soon join them.
In Massachusetts, a Suffolk/Globe poll conducted as state lawmakers were in the process of approving legislation to expand abortion access found support for allowing abortion beyond 24 weeks in certain circumstances, and somewhat softer support for a provision allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to obtain abortions without the consent of a parent or a judge. That legislation was passed into law after the Massachusetts House and Senate overrode a veto from Governor Charlie Baker in late 2020.