Roe V Wade: Us Women Divided On Abortion Ruling
When the Supreme Court ruling was leaked in May, it reverberated across the US – in both anti-abortion and pro-choice circles.
Since Roe v Wade legalised abortion nationwide in 1973, many women have fought tirelessly to overturn it, believing the life of an unborn child begins at conception.
Others clung to the hope that America’s highest court might uphold the almost fifty-year-old ruling that allows a woman the right to choose.
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center conducted in March 2022, 61% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, though support falls sharply for allowing the procedure beyond the first trimester of pregnancy. Many opponents of legal abortion say it should be legal in some circumstances.
As part of the Ask America series, we asked six women – three from each side of this debate – how they felt after reading the draft majority opinion that suggested the conservative-leaning court would overturn the national right to an abortion .
My first reaction to the leaked document was shock that the Supreme Court appears to be overturning Roe v Wade. As a pro-life conservative, I am used to watching the American political spectrum continuously shift farther away from my values, so I was cautiously optimistic about this apparent progress.
Second, I would be relieved that the leak of this document did not successfully pressure the court to change its decision.
Remarkable Pro Choice Abortion Facts And Statistics
Abortion is a subject that polarizes people and creates passionate debate on both sides of it. For those who are pro choice, the idea is simple. The law allows for abortion, which means a woman has the right to choose whether or not she ends her pregnancy. Instead of changing the laws and creating a pseudo-religious government to rule over women, having better access to contraception, meaningful sex education, and family planning services makes more sense.
We Polled 1060 Americans About Abortion This Is What They Got Wrong
Most Americans Democrats and Republicans, men and women, pro-choice and pro-life all share a belief about abortion: that it’s rare.
Twenty-seven percent of Americans think fewer than 10 percent of women will have an abortion in their lifetime 51 percent say its fewer than 20 percent, a new Vox pollof 1,060 registered voters conducted by communications firm Perry/Undem shows.
This turns out to be a significant underestimate. The best data available suggests that about 25 to 30 percent1 of American women will terminate a pregnancy at some point in their lives.
The most recent estimate available suggests that 30 percent of American women will have an abortion in their lifetime. This figure comes from the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health-focused nonprofit that supports abortion rights. In a 2011 paper in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, Rachel Jones and Megan Cavanaugh estimated that if the 2008 abortion rate held steady, 30 percent of women alive then would have an abortion during their lives. But since 2008, the abortion rate has dropped and some have questioned whether the 30 percent figure is still a valid estimate. Those are fair questions and are the reason we identify the prevalence of abortion in the story as somewhere between 25 and 30 percent.
Abortion is a common medical procedure. There are hundreds of thousands more abortions each year in the US than either appendectomies or hysterectomies.
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The Women Who Choose Abortion
Abortion is a routine part of reproductive health care. Approximately 25 percent of women in the U.S. will undergo an abortion before the age of 45. The Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy institute in New York City, has been tracking these data for the last 50 years.
American women have abortions with similar frequency to women living in other developed nations. The bulk of abortion patients are in their 20s.
Women of all races and ethnicities choose abortion. In 2014, 39 percent of abortion patients were white, 28 percent were black and 25 percent were Latina. Similarly, women of all religious affiliations choose to end their pregnancies.
Most of these women understand what it means to parent a child. More than half of abortion patients in 2014 were already mothers.
Poor women account for the majority of abortion patients. Fifty-three percent of women pay out-of-pocket for their abortion. The rest use private or state-funded insurance plans.
Women choose abortion for multiple reasons. The most common reason cited is that pregnancy would interfere with education, work or ability to care of dependents.
Financial stress also plays a major role in womens decision making. Seventy-three percent of women reported that they could not afford a baby at the time. Nearly half cited relationship difficulties or wanting to avoid single motherhood. More than a third of women felt their families were complete.
The Demographic Breakdown Of Women Who Are Getting Abortions
Giving Compass’ Take:
- Luu D. Ireland outlines the statistics regarding the demographic information on women who are getting abortions in the United States.
- Research shows that countries with the most restrictive abortion laws have higher rates of abortions. How can funders best support reproductive healthcare? Where is this work most needed?
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
The abortion debate is at the center of U.S. political dialogue. As of June 2018, 49 percent of Americans consider themselves pro-choice, while 45 percent consider themselves pro-life. Voices from both sides flood social media feeds, while newspapers, radio and television programs frequently cover the topic.
Since 2011, politicians have enacted 400 pieces of legislation restricting this medical procedure.
One important groups voice is often absent in this heated debate: the women who choose abortion. While 1 in 4 women will undergo abortion in her lifetime, stigma keeps their stories untold. As an obstetrician/gynecologist who provides full spectrum reproductive health care, including abortion, I hear these stories daily.
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Almost Every Death And Injury From Unsafe Abortion Is Preventable
Deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions are preventable. Yet such deaths are common in countries where access to safe abortion is limited or prohibited entirely, as the majority of women and girls who need an abortion because of an unwanted pregnancy are not able to legally access one.
In countries with such restrictions, the law typically allows for what are known as narrow exceptions to the legislation criminalising abortion. These exceptions might be when pregnancy results from rape or incest, in cases of severe and fatal foetal impairment, or when there is risk to the life or health of the pregnant person. Only a small percentage of abortions are due to these reasons, meaning the majority of women and girls living under these laws might be forced to seek unsafe abortions and put their health and lives at risk.
The WHO has noted that one of the first steps toward avoiding maternal deaths and injuries is for states to ensure that people have access to sex education, are able to use effective contraception, have safe and legal abortion, and are given timely care for complications.
Evidence shows that abortion rates are higher in countries where there is limited access to contraception. Abortion rates are lower where people, including adolescents have information about and can access modern contraceptive methods and where comprehensive sexuality education is available and there is access to safe and legal abortion on broad grounds.
Most Still Oppose Abortion In Second And Third Trimesters
A defining feature of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was its reference to pregnancy trimesters in establishing when states can or cannot limit a woman’s right to an abortion. Roe effectively said the state could not limit abortions in the first and second trimesters but had an interest in protecting the fetus after the point of viability, at about the start of the third trimester.
Americans’ views have only partially aligned with this distinction over the years, broadly agreeing that abortion should be legal in the first three months of pregnancy and mostly agreeing it should be illegal in the last three months. However, unlike the court’s hands-off approach in the second trimester, relatively few Americans have thought it should generally be legal at that stage.
While that general pattern persists in the latest poll, the percentages saying abortion should be legal increased for each trimester, rising seven to eight points for each.
Currently, support for legal abortion in the first trimester runs more than 2-to-1 in favor . A majority of Americans are generally against abortion in the second three months, while 36% think it should be legal. Americans are most unified in their views on the third trimester, with 71% saying abortion should not be legal at this stage and 20% saying it should be.
Previous Gallup polling found Americans opposed to laws banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected , such as those passed in a number of states.
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Facts And Statistics About Abortion
Many believe that the Roe vs. Wade decision allows women to have an abortion any time they want, but this isnt true. The decision allows for an abortion up until the point of viability. If a child can survive outside the womb, then an abortion according to Roe is considered illegal. This means the debate about abortion is more about when the definition of human life begins.
Many Countries Are Starting To Change Their Laws To Allow For Greater Access To Abortion
Over the last 25 years, more than 50 countries have changed their laws to allow for greater access to abortion, at times recognizing the vital role that access to safe abortion plays in protecting womens lives and health. Ireland joined that list on 25 May 2018 when, in a long-awaited referendum, its people voted overwhelmingly to repeal the near-total constitutional ban on abortion.
Despite the trend towards reforming laws to prevent deaths and injuries, some countries, including Nicaragua and El Salvador, maintain draconian and discriminatory laws that still ban abortion in virtually all circumstances. In fact, according to the WHO, across the globe 40% of women of childbearing age live in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, or where abortion is legal, is neither available or accessible. In these states, abortion is banned or only permitted in highly restricted circumstances, or if legal, is not accessible due to multiple barriers to access in practice.
Even in states with broader access to legal abortion, pregnant individuals can still face multiple restrictions on and barriers to access to services such as cost, biased counselling, mandatory waiting periods. The WHO has issued technical guidance for states on the need to identify and remove such barriers.
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Criminalising Abortion Is A Form Of Discrimination Which Further Fuels Stigma
Firstly, the denial of medical services, including reproductive health services that only certain individuals need is a form of discrimination.
Secondly, stigma around abortion and gender stereotyping is closely linked to the criminalisation of abortion and other restrictive abortion laws and policies.
The mere perception that abortion is unlawful or immoral leads to the stigmatization of women and girls by health care staff, family members, and the judiciary, among others. Consequently, women and girls seeking abortion risk discrimination and harassment. Some women have reported being abused and shamed by health care providers when seeking abortion services or post-abortion care.
Europeans Are Overwhelmingly Pro
Roe v Wade was overturned in the US by a court, not by voters. The same happened in Poland and it could happen again
Abortion access is about to be severely curtailed or cut off for millions of women in the United States following the supreme courts decision to abolish the constitutional protections for the termination of pregnancy established by the landmark Roe v Wadecase 50 years ago.
The decision allows state legislatures to ban abortion and half are now likely to limit access.
Despite the condemnation from many European leaders, not all EU states have decriminalised abortion. Malta retains a total ban. And in Poland, an already restrictive law was made draconian in 2020. Medical personnel now face lengthy prison sentences for providing or procuring an abortion and women have died as a result.
It should be remembered, however, that in both the US and Poland, courts of law, not democratic majorities, made the decisions. What has happened in the US is the culmination of years of efforts by US activists to see more socially conservative judges appointed.
This judicial activism is no accident. Democratic majorities in most countries support the right to abortion. Independent judicial courts are not accountable to majorities, however. As a result, it is the judiciary that can often enact the restrictions that conservatives seek.
Anna Grzymala-Busse is a professor of political science at Stanford University
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It Depends On The Question
From there, support for abortion rights declines.
When asked whether they want abortion to be always legal, mostly legal, mostly illegal or always illegal, a split public emerges. An AP-NORC poll from last year that 23% thought abortion should always be legal, 33% said it should mostly be legal, 30% said mostly illegal and 13% believed it should always be illegal.
What these findings tell is that few Americans want abortion to always be legal and even fewer want it to be always illegal. Instead, the abortion debate comes down to coalitions.
In this case, the coalition who want abortion to be at least mostly legal outruns the coalition that wants it illegal at least most of the time .
An even different question, but one that should be familiar to followers of the abortion debate, is whether people label themselves pro-choice or pro-life .
Here, Gallup has consistently found a near even split. Last year, it was 49% pro-choice to 47% pro-life, a result well within the margin of error.
When you see these different results, you get to understand why surveys on Americans opinions of abortion often raise more questions than they answer.
Explanation Of Categories Of Abortion Laws
Category 1. Prohibited Altogether
The laws of the countries in this category do not permit abortion under any circumstances, including when the womans life or health is at risk. 24 countries globally fall within this category.
91 million women of reproductive age live in countries that prohibit abortion altogether.
Category II. To Save a Womans Life
The laws of the countries in this category permit abortion when the womans life is at risk. 41 countries fall within this category.
358 million women of reproductive age live in countries that allow abortion to save the life of the woman.
Category III. To Preserve Health
The laws of countries in this category permit abortion on the basis of health or therapeutic grounds. 48 countries fall within this category
186 million of women of reproductive age live in countries that allow abortion on health grounds.
Category IV. Broad Social or Economic Grounds
These laws are generally interpreted liberally to permit abortion under a broad range of circumstances. These countries often consider a womans actual or reasonably foreseeable environment and her social or economic circumstances in considering the potential impact of pregnancy and childbearing. 13 countries fall within this category.
386 million of women of reproductive age live in countries that allow abortion on broad social or economic grounds.
Category V. On Request
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Idaho Public Opinion Research On Reproductive Health
Attitudes Toward People and Organizations
Views of Planned Parenthood are mixed and polarized. A plurality of voters in Idaho are favorable toward Planned Parenthood. Intensity in favorability toward the organization is strongest among Democrats , pro-choice voters , voters who rarely attend religious services , women , and Latinx voters .
More than two-in-five are unfavorable toward Planned Parenthood, including more than one third who are very unfavorable. Men, Republicans , voters in Idaho Falls, anti-choice voters, conflicted voters on choice, those who attend religious services often, Catholics, and Mormons are net-negative toward the organization.
Idaho voters rate Right to Life Idaho with similar favorability but unfavorability is lower, and Right to Life Idaho is less well known. A plurality feel favorable . A fifth are unfavorable and 13% are very unfavorable. Democrats, pro-choice voters, and secular voters are net negative to Right to Life Idaho while other demographic and attitudinal subgroups are net positive.
While President Trump and Republicans in the state Legislature have net-positive favorability, Democrats in the state Legislature are net-negative reflecting the gap in party identification. The U.S. Congress has net-negative favorability among Idaho voters.
Attitudes Toward Choice, Sex Ed, and Birth Control
A significantly higher proportion of Idaho voters are pro-choice than are Democratic .
Idaho Legislative Actions
People Have Abortions All The Time Regardless Of What The Law Says
Ending a pregnancy is a common decision that millions of people make every year a quarter of pregnancies end in abortion.
And regardless of whether abortion is legal or not, people still require and regularly access abortion services. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a US-based reproductive health non-profit, the abortion rate is 37 per 1,000 people in countries that prohibit abortion altogether or allow it only in instances to save a womans life, and 34 per 1,000 people in countries that broadly allow for abortion, a difference that is not statistically significant.
When undertaken by a trained health-care provider in sanitary conditions, abortions are one of the safest medical procedures available, safer even than child birth.
But when governments restrict access to abortions, people are compelled to resort to clandestine, unsafe abortions, particularly those who cannot afford to travel or seek private care. Which brings us to the next point.
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