A year after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, where do Americans stand on abortion? A recent YouGov survey asked Americans how they feel about the decision, abortion access in their state, and in what circumstances they think a person should be allowed to get a legal abortion. As was true a year ago, Americans are more likely to disapprove than approve of the decision — with a great variety of opinion on more specific questions about abortion access and legality.
Americans are more likely to disapprove (44%) of the Supreme Court’s decision than approve (35%), according to the May 19 - 25, 2023 survey. More Americans disapproved a year ago, according to a June 27 - 30, 2022 poll, in which 51% disapproved of the decision and 34% approved.
While 62% of Democrats disapprove of the decision, that's down from 77% a year ago; 19% approve, up from 11%. The majority of Republicans approve of the decision, little changed from a year earlier (59%, compared to 61% in June 2022); 23% approve, compared to 25% a year earlier.
The decision brought about much discussion about people’s ability to access abortion care where they live.
About half (49%) of Americans who live in the South believe it is hard (25%) or very hard (24%) for a woman to get an abortion in their state. In the West, 26% say the same while fewer than one-quarter of people in the Midwest (22%) and Northeast (12%) believe women face similar difficulty in their state.
In April 2022, before the Supreme Court decision, Southerners were far less likely to say — in response to a similar question — that it was difficult to access abortion care services where they lived: 35% said so, down 14 percentage points from today.
Today a majority (57%) of Southerners say it’s more difficult to get an abortion in their state now than it was a year ago. People in other regions are more likely to say that abortion access is “about the same as it was” a year prior.
Americans are divided on whether the laws in their state should make it easier or harder for women to get abortions. Even people living in regions that make it relatively easy to access abortion care are more likely to think it should be made easier than to want to make it harder. But even as 36% of Americans think their state laws should make it easier for people to access abortions, 30% think they should make it harder and 22% would have them stay the same.
If someone can’t access abortion care where they live, should they be allowed to travel elsewhere to receive it? Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) say yes. The majority of Democrats (73%) and Independents (67%) say this, as do 48% of Republicans.
Americans are also supportive of people having access to abortion medication through telehealth appointments and mailed prescriptions.
About half (52%) of Americans support allowing doctors to prescribe abortion medication online based on telehealth appointments, if it’s permitted by state laws where the patient lives. One-third (34%) are opposed. Democrats (70%) and Independents (49%) are more likely than Republicans (34%) to support this.
Results are nearly identical on the question of allowing abortion medication to be mailed. About half (51%) of Americans support allowing abortion medication to be mailed to patients who have been prescribed it; 34% oppose this. Democrats (68%) and Independents (49%) are more likely than Republicans (33%) to support this.
Another piece of the abortion access discussion concerns health insurance. Nearly half (47%) of Americans believe that basic health insurance policies should include coverage for abortion; 38% disagree. More than two-thirds of Democrats (71%) think abortion should be covered; fewer Independents (45%) or Republicans (22%) say the same.
Beyond the mechanics of abortion access, there’s much to consider around the circumstances in which a person might seek an abortion.
For a considerable share of Americans, the circumstances don’t matter — they think abortion should be legal in all cases (19%) or illegal in all cases (8%). Larger shares take a more moderate view: 32% think it should be legal in most cases and 31% think it should be illegal in most cases.
The survey also asked people to consider a series of situations and asked whether a woman should be able to obtain a legal abortion in each circumstance.
Majorities think a woman should be able to get an abortion in five of the six situations described in the survey. Majorities of Americans say abortion should be allowed if the woman’s own life is endangered by the pregnancy (79%), if she became pregnant as a result of rape (74%), if she became pregnant as a result of incest (73%), if the baby is diagnosed with a congenital disorder resulting in little or no life expectancy (68%), or if there is a strong chance of the baby having a physical or mental disability (54%).
Fewer (38%) think it should be possible for a woman to obtain an abortion because she wants one “for any reason.”
Among the 27% of Americans who self-identify as pro-life, nearly two-thirds (64%) think abortion should be allowed if the woman’s life is seriously endangered by the pregnancy. About half (53%) think it should be allowed if she became pregnant as a result of incest, and 47% think it should be allowed if the baby is diagnosed with a congenital disorder resulting in little or no life expectancy. In the case of the baby having a physical or mental disability, 26% of pro-lifers think abortion should be allowed; 59% do not.
Among the 33% of Americans who are pro-choice, majorities say that a woman should be able to obtain an abortion in any of the outlined situations, including 74% who think a woman should be able to get one for any reason.
The survey also asked Americans to consider whether it is ethical for a person to pursue an out-of-state abortion in various circumstances.
Most Americans (56%) believe it would be ethical for a woman to seek an abortion in another state if she lived in a state where it was banned. If she were pregnant because of rape and subsequently seeking an out-of-state abortion because her state banned abortions even in the case of rape — which is true in several U.S. states including Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Kentucky — 72% would see this as ethical.
If a 12-year-old girl who became pregnant after being raped by a family member were to seek an abortion out-of-state because her state banned abortion even in the cases of rape or incest — which is the case in many U.S. states — 75% of Americans would see this as ethical.
Similarly, 76% of Americans would consider it ethical for a woman to seek an abortion in another state if her life was in danger because of the pregnancy and she lived in a state where she couldn’t get an abortion under those circumstances.
If a woman lives in a state where the abortion she wants is banned, what’s the most likely outcome? About half of Americans (48%) think most people seeking abortions in states with abortion bans will go to another state to get an abortion. About one-quarter (24%) think most people in this situation will get an illegal abortion in their own state, and 9% think most people in this scenario will end up giving birth.
People who identify as pro-life (16%) are four times as likely as those who are pro-choice (4%) to think that women facing this scenario will give birth. That said, at least half of both pro-life and pro-choice respondents think interstate travel for an abortion is the most likely outcome, at 54% and 51%.
One-third (33%) of Americans believe that abortion restrictions result in doctors providing worse medical care to pregnant patients, though just as many (31%) don’t think there’s any impact. About one in five (18%) think it results in better care.
Most Americans see potentially dire outcomes as the result of abortion restrictions. For one thing, 57% think it’s likely that these laws will result in doctors delaying or withholding medical treatment for pregnant patients who may need an abortion as a life-saving measure. Pro-choice respondents are more likely than pro-life respondents to say this is a probable outcome, at 80% vs. 34%. And 58% of Americans think it’s likely that abortion restrictions will result in people who lose pregnancies due to miscarriage or stillbirth being wrongly investigated and prosecuted by law-enforcement authorities for violating anti-abortion laws. Among pro-choice Americans, 83% think this is likely; 31% of pro-life Americans agree.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, you can contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) sexual assault hotline toll-free at 800-656-4673 or chat with a crisis support staff member online.
— Taylor Orth, Linley Sanders, and Carl Bialik contributed to this article.
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Methodology: This poll was conducted online on May 19 - 25, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. 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 March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.
Image: Getty (Anna Moneymaker)