Most Americans support the availability by prescription of abortion-inducing drugs

Linley SandersData Journalist
April 20, 2023, 7:41 PM GMT+0

The Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on recent legal challenges to the Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of an abortion-inducing drug called mifepristone. While the drug will remain available with a prescription for now, a series of judicial rulings from lower courts has thrown the United States' future access to mifepristone into question.

According to the latest Economist/YouGov poll, 48% of Americans strongly or somewhat oppose judges overruling decisions made by the FDA approving a drug as “safe and effective.” One-third (33%) of Americans support the judge's decision. A majority of Americans (53%) support the abortion-inducing drugs mifepristone and misoprostol being legal to access with a prescription from a health care provider. About one-third (32%) oppose that access being legal.

Partisanship and gender mark clear divides over who supports the access. Among six groups — men and women among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans — Democratic women are the most supportive (74% support access to the drugs), followed by Democratic men (62%) and Independent women (52%). About half of Independent men (49%) support access, followed by Republican men (41%). Republican women are the least likely to support access (32%).

About half of abortions today happen by the pregnant person taking abortion-inducing drugs. The recent Texas judicial ruling, currently on hold, suggested that the FDA had not adequately considered the safety risks of the pills used to obtain a medication abortion.

Americans are more likely to say surgical abortions performed in a clinic or hospital are very or somewhat safe (61%) than to say the same about medication abortions (49%) — but in both cases, more Americans see the procedures as safe than see them as not safe at all or not very safe. Republicans are split on the safety of medication abortion: 31% think it is safe and 35% think it is not safe.

Medication abortion is the most common method of ending a pregnancy in the U.S. Data from the Guttmacher Institute released in 2022 says it accounts for 53% of all U.S. abortions. Americans appear to have grown more aware of the prevalence of medication abortions over the last year. An Economist/YouGov poll conducted in April 2022 found that 14% of Americans said that medication abortion was the most common method. According to the most recent poll, more than twice as many Americans (35%) now point to medications as the most commonly used method.

Democrats (42% from 21%), Independents (32% from 9%), and Republicans (31% from 13%) all are more likely now than they were a year earlier to say medication abortion is the most common method.

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on April 15 - 18, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to June 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (34% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Adobe Stock (Kateryna Kutsevol)