The majority of American adults, including those living in states with the deepest restrictions on abortion, want abortion to be legal at least during the early stages of pregnancy, a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The poll was conducted in late June, a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, overturning a national right to abortion that had been in effect for nearly 50 years.
Although the laws have changed in the past year, the poll found that opinions on abortion are still the same as they were a year ago: complex, with most people saying abortion should be allowed in some circumstances and not in others. Overall, about two-thirds of Americans say abortion should be legal in general, but only about a quarter think it should always be legal and only about 1 in 10 say it should always be illegal.
By 24 weeks of pregnancy, most Americans believe their state should generally not allow abortions.
That applies to 34-year-old Jaleesha Thomas from Chicago. “I’d rather have the person abort the baby than harm the baby or throw the baby away or something,” she said in an interview. But she said that about 20 weeks into pregnancy, she thinks abortion shouldn’t normally be an option. “If they’re fully developed and the mother doesn’t have a disease or anything else that would kill the baby or she, it’s like killing another human being.”
The state of Thomas allows abortion until the fetus is viable, generally believed to be about 24 weeks old, and has become a destination for people from neighboring Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin and other places with travel bans on abortions.
The poll shows that 1 in 10 Americans say they know someone who either couldn’t get an abortion or who had to travel to get one in the past year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — and that this is especially common among youth, people of color, and people living in states that prohibit abortion at all stages of pregnancy.
Nearly half of the states now allow abortion until between 20 and 27 weeks, but in most cases exclude it later. Before the fall of Roe, almost every state fell within that range. Now abortion — with several exceptions — is banned at all stages of pregnancy in 14 states, including much of the South.
The poll found that 73% of all American adults, including 58% of those in states with the strictest bans, believe abortion should be allowed after six weeks of pregnancy. Only one state currently has a ban in place that will take effect around that time. That’s Georgia, where abortion is banned as soon as heart activity can be detected — about six weeks and before women often know they’re pregnant. Ohio and South Carolina have similar bans that are not being enforced due to legal action, and Florida has one that has not taken effect.
About half of Americans believe abortions should be allowed after 15 weeks, although 55% of those living in the most restrictive states believe abortion should be banned by then.
And by 24 weeks, about two-thirds of Americans, including those living in states with the least restrictions, say it should be ruled out.
While most GOP-controlled state governments have pushed for more abortion restrictions, the poll shows that there is not always support. Nationally, about 4 in 10 people said it was too difficult to access abortion in their community, compared to about a quarter who think it is too easy.
Robert Green, an 89-year-old politically independent farmer in Wyoming, where a judge suspended a ban on abortion during pregnancy, said he had supported abortion rights since before the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. “There are many reasons,” he said. “Not the least: The people who don’t want kids and go ahead and get them — the kids usually suffer.”
People in states with the strictest prohibitions were slightly more likely to say abortion was too difficult to access compared to those living in the least restrictive states. Overall, about half of Democrats say it’s too hard, compared to 22% of Republicans.
And women were more likely to say access was too difficult in their area. For both Republicans and Democrats, there wasn’t much difference between men and women on the subject: About half of both Democratic men and women thought it was too challenging, and about 2 in 10 GOP men and women did. But nearly half of independent women thought so, compared to about a 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 sampling error margin for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.