What measures do opponents of abortion legality support to address unwanted pregnancies?

Taylor OrthSenior Survey Data Journalist
July 07, 2022, 2:46 PM GMT+0

Following the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, many states have begun to enact near-total bans on abortion. These restrictions have led to discussion around proposed measures that might reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, as well as ways to ease the burden of parenthood among people who have lost abortion as an option. A YouGov poll conducted shortly after the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft decision in May finds that most of these proposals are widely perceived as effective and enjoy broad public support, including expanding access to birth control and emergency contraception, mandating comprehensive sex education, funding maternal and child health care, requiring employers to provide paid parental leave, and funding childcare for people who can’t afford it. 

Half of Americans say they would like to see the number of abortions in this country decrease, while 18% say they'd like the number of abortions to stay the same and 8% say they'd like it to increase. Among Americans who support overturning Roe v. Wade, 73% would like the number of abortions to decrease, while only 13% would like the number to stay the same and 8% would like it to increase. People who oppose overturning Roe v. Wade are more divided: 37% would like to see a reduction in abortions, while 24% would like the number to stay the same, and 9% would like it to increase. On this question, people who oppose overturning Roe v. Wade are far more likely to say they’re “not sure” than people who support it (30% vs. 6%, respectively). 

What measures do Americans think would result in fewer abortions, and how supportive are they of these measures? In one part of our survey, we presented Americans with a list of ideas that some have proposed as ways to reduce the number of abortions. We then asked the extent to which they believe each idea would be effective at reducing abortions, regardless of their stance on whether reducing the number of abortions is a desirable outcome. In the next part of the survey, we measured support for each of these measures. In the chart below, we compare aggregate responses to these two questions (effectiveness and support). 

All but one of the 15 measures are seen as very or somewhat effective at reducing abortion by a majority of Americans; the exception is mandating abstinence-only sex education. More than 80% say it would be effective to do each of the following: increase the access and affordability of birth control, increase the access and affordability of emergency contraception, and encourage women to use birth control until they want to have children.

For all but two of the 15 measures, the share who support it is close to the share who think that measure will be effective at reducing abortions. One exception is funding programs to address domestic and sexual abuse: More support doing this than think it will be effective at reducing abortions. The other is making abortion illegal in all or most cases: More say this would be effective at reducing abortions than support doing so. (More than half of Americans also say making abortion legal in all or most cases would be effective at reducing the number of abortions, and a majority also support it.)

Next, we examine how support for different measures varies based on whether a person supports overturning Roe v. Wade (i.e., is opposed to abortion legality) or opposes doing so (i.e., is in favor of abortion legality). People who oppose overturning Roe v. Wade are significantly more likely than people in favor of overturning it to support 11 of the 15 measures. The four measures that people in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade are more likely to support than are people who aren’t in favor are making abortion illegal, mandating abstinence-only sex education, informing people about the developmental milestones of fetuses, and connecting pregnant women to adoption agencies. 

Nonetheless, nearly all of the 15 measures polled are supported by majorities of Roe supporters and Roe opponents. While almost all Americans in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade support banning abortion, most of these people also support other measures that could reduce the number of abortions and ease the burden of parenthood. More than 50% support each of the following: expanding birth control and emergency contraception access, funding maternal and child health care, expanding access to childcare, requiring paid parental leave, mandating schools teach about contraception, and encouraging men to get vasectomies. The only measure polled that is opposed by more than half of Americans in favor of overturning Roe is making abortion legal in all or most cases. 

We also compared differences in measures’ perceived effectiveness and support among people who support and oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. In general, more opponents of Roe find measures effective at reducing abortion than support the measures, while the opposite is true among supporters of Roe: