40 Years After Roe, A Shift in Public Opinion

Updated
5th July 1973:  Pro-choice campaigners at a demonstration in favour of abortion in front of the American Hotel in mid-town New York, where the American...
5th July 1973: Pro-choice campaigners at a demonstration in favour of abortion in front of the American Hotel in mid-town New York, where the American...
Peter Keegan

Forty years ago today, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that divided Americans for decades. But new polling suggests that Americans are not divided on the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision any longer.

A whopping 70% of Americans oppose overturning the decision; just 24% say it should be overturned, according to polling from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal. What’s more, for the first time a majority of Americans, 54%, believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

As NBC’s First Read reports, much of that change is coming from African-Americans, Latinos, and women without college degrees, who are increasingly opposed to any change on Roe.

Unlike the issue of gay marriage, where views closely correlate with age and gender, the demographic breakdown on the abortion issue is more complex. Still, large majorities of nearly every demographic group, including 57% of Republicans, support upholding Roe.

Many Americans also still say they want some restrictions on abortion. 31% of respondents say abortion should always be legal, and 9% believe it should be illegal without any exceptions. But between those two views, 23% think it should be legal most of the time, but with some exceptions, and 35% believe it should be illegal, but allow for exceptions in the case of rape, incest or to save a woman’s life.

The shift in public opinion nationally comes amid accelerated efforts by states to restrict abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which favors abortion rights, a record 92 measures restricting abortion passed in 24 states in 2011, and 43 more passed in 19 states last year. Nine states have recently banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The Wall Street Journal reports that this year, Texas, Indiana, and Missouri will consider restrictions on chemically induced abortions, and Indiana and South Carolina have legislation under consideration which would add regulations to clinics.

The White House released a statement Tuesday, saying, “On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we reaffirm its historic commitment to protect the health and reproductive freedom of women across this country and stand by its guiding principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters, and women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care.”

“The Daily Rundown” Gaggle breaks down how the shift in public opinion on abortion will change the political conversation going forward.


40 Years After Roe, A Shift in Public Opinion

Updated