A majority of Americans broadly believe abortion should be legal and more than 60% believe people should be able to obtain abortions during the first trimester of their pregnancy, a new Associated Press/NORC poll finds—but support for abortion being legal drops significantly as the pregnancy continues, an issue that will soon be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The poll, conducted June 10-14 among 1,125 U.S. adults, found 57% of respondents believe abortion should be legal overall in all or most cases—with 23% saying it should be legal in all cases and 33% saying only in most cases—including 76% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans.
That percentage was even higher when asked whether abortion should be legal during the first trimester specifically, with 61% saying it should be legal in all or most cases.
Only 34% believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases in the second trimester, however, and 19% say it should be legal during the third, including 52% and 28% of Democrats, respectively, and 18% and 8% of Republicans.
A further 30% believe that abortion should be illegal in some but not all cases in the second trimester, and 26% believe it should be illegal but with exceptions in the third trimester.
A separate Reuters poll conducted June 11-17 recorded slightly higher levels of support, with 47% of respondents saying pre-viability abortions should be legal, which would be up until about 24 to 28 weeks into the pregnancy, or the end of the second trimester.
Under current federal rules set by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, abortion is legal up until the point where the fetus is considered to be viable.
49%. That’s the percentage of respondents in the AP poll who said they believe anyone should be able to legally obtain an abortion if they “[want] one for any reason,” while 50% believe that should not be the case.
Reproductive health expert and abortion rights advocate Dr. Daniel Grossman of the University of California, San Francisco, told the AP that past research has shown Americans are more likely to be empathetic to second-trimester abortions if they learn about the reasoning behind them, like people being unable to make arrangements to get an abortion in time during the first trimester or discovering that the fetus is at risk of death or severe abnormalities. “More work needs to be done to elevate the voices of people who have had abortions and who want to share their stories to help people understand the many reasons why this medical care is so necessary,” Grossman told the AP.
What To Watch For
The Supreme Court will take up the issue of whether to strike down pre-viability abortions during their next term as they consider a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. That ruling could result in Roe v. Wade being significantly weakened or struck down entirely, and potentially result in abortion being outlawed or severely restricted in a number of states without protections for abortion rights. Republican-led states have passed a rash of laws banning or heavily limiting abortions in recent years with an eye toward the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court reconsidering the landmark abortion ruling, with the Guttmacher Institute reporting in April that 83 state-level restrictions on abortion had already been enacted so far in 2021 alone.
The AP’s finding that a majority of Americans support some form of abortion being legal is in line with other polling showing increasing levels of support for abortion rights. A recent Gallup poll found 47% of Americans now believe abortion is “morally acceptable,” which marked a record high, and 58% of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade to be overturned. While majorities of the AP respondents believed later-term abortions should be outlawed at least in most cases, there is more support for them than in the past: A Gallup poll in 2018, for instance, found only 28% believed abortion should be legal in the second trimester and 13% in the third, lower than the AP’s findings now.
AP-NORC poll: Most say restrict abortion after 1st trimester (Associated Press)
Supreme Court To Consider Mississippi’s Abortion Ban In Move That Could Challenge Roe V. Wade (Forbes)
Record Number Of Americans Say Abortion ‘Morally Acceptable,’ Gallup Poll Finds (Forbes)