Abortion is one of the most topical – and controversial – political issues of the moment. (And it's not just in the US – several other countries are re-igniting the debate surrounding birthrights, too.) But despite the notoriously pro-life current administration and the recent onslaught of legislation attempting to dismantle or restrict abortion rights, the public remains quite substantially in favor of Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 court decision that guaranteed the legality of abortion across all US states. That is the conclusion of two independent, non-related but timely polls released in the last week.
The first, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, was published on June 29, 2018. More than two-thirds of respondents (67 percent, to be exact) replied saying they did not want the decision to be overturned. Twenty-nine percent disagreed, saying they would prefer it to be reversed. Four percent, it seems, did not have much of an opinion on the matter.
There were, unsurprisingly, some political divisions around the issue of abortion. While 81 percent of Democrats supported Roe v Wade, only 53 percent of Republicans felt the same. However, the majority of independents (73 percent) were also overwhelmingly pro-choice. When it comes to women of reproductive age – arguably the demographic most affected by this particular debate – 74 percent elected to keep the decision.
These stats were confirmed by a second national poll handled by researchers at Quinnipiac University involving a total of 1,020 voters and containing a margin error of plus or minus 3.7 percent. Sixty-three percent of participants approved of the court decision. Thirty-one percent did not, leaving six percent undecided. Again, there was a party divide (58 percent of Republicans surveyed opposed the decision), however, there was only a very small split along gender lines. Sixty-five percent of women agreed with Roe v Wade, 61 percent of men felt the same.
The pro-life/pro-choice battle is normally fought along moral lines, but what does the science say?
Studies show that restricting abortion (or banning it outright) does not reduce the number taking place – but it does make them significantly less safe. Interestingly, one study found that abortion rates were, in fact, marginally higher in countries with tighter restrictions than those without. (Thirty-seven per 1,000 women versus 34 per 1,000 women respectively.) While 45 percent of abortions conducted worldwide are unsafe for the women involved, when practiced under the right conditions – as they are in the US – reports show they are both safe and effective.
Aside from the health and wellbeing of women, there has also been research linking legal access to abortion to lower crime rates.