In a post-Roe country, most Americans expect more illegal abortions and more births

Linley SandersData Journalist
July 07, 2022, 8:19 PM GMT+0

In the weeks since the Supreme Court overturned its Roe v. Wade decision and ended the constitutional right to abortion access, some experts have predicted that the United States will see an exacerbation of health inequalities, an increase in births among low-income women, and more people seeking abortions on their own without clinical supervision.

If these predicted outcomes transpire, that will surprise more Republicans than Democrats. According to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, majorities of Democrats think that as a result of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on abortion, the number of illegal abortions will increase (77% expect this), more pregnant women will die (71% anticipate this), and the number of women abused by their partners will increase (57% predict this).

Nearly half of Republicans (46%) say that illegal abortions will rise, but only 18% believe more pregnant women will die and 15% say that partner abuse will increase. Republicans (50%) are more likely than Democrats (25%) to believe the number of adoptions will rise in the next few years, and that the number of total abortions in the U.S. will decrease (48% of Republicans say this, compared to 30% of Democrats). At least half of the members of both major parties say there will be more babies born because of the ruling (55% of Democrats and 50% of Republicans say this).

How Americans want Congress to address abortion

Attention has turned to whether Congress will propose any federal laws around abortion access, or if it will leave matters to the states. Americans are split on whether abortion laws should be decided nationally (45%) or left to the states (39%), with Republicans in favor of states deciding (21% want the matter decided nationally, 69% want it left to the states) and Democrats wanting a national law (68% vs 17%).

There is bipartisan support for some Congressional action. Majorities of Americans support Congress passing a law to legalize abortion when the woman's health is endangered by her pregnancy (78%), in the case of rape or incest (75%), and during the first trimester (60%). A majority would also support Congress establishing a constitutional right to abortion (56%). Majorities of Republicans support legalizing abortion when the woman's health is endangered by her pregnancy (72%) and in the case of rape or incest (63%).

While Republicans don’t want Congress to establish a nationwide right to an abortion or even to legalize it in the first trimester of pregnancy, many Republicans also reject action in the other direction. By 51% to 39%, Republicans oppose a nationwide ban on all abortions by Congressional legislation — a measure Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said might be possible if his party takes control of Congress after this year’s elections.

The possible political implications of overturning Roe

There may be political implications to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Of course, enthusiasm may fade as the election gets closer, and other issues may come to dominate the fall campaign. But as of now, abortion is a much more important issue to Democrats than to Republicans. Seven in 10 Democrats (70%) describe it as very important when they decide how to vote this fall, compared with 38% of Republicans.

More registered Democrats (70%) than registered Republicans (37%) claim their Congressional vote this fall will be motivated by a candidate’s position on abortion, and Democratic enthusiasm for voting this fall is now approaching GOP enthusiasm – something that has not been the case for much of this year.

— Taylor Orth and Carl Bialik contributed to this article

This poll was conducted on July 2 - 5, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll.

Image: Getty