More than four decades after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, opponents and supporters of abortion rights are still battling over the issue in court, at the ballot box and in state legislatures. A recently enacted Alabama law has been described as the nation’s most restrictive, and several other states also have passed new restrictions on abortion with an eye toward giving the Supreme Court a chance to overturn its decision in Roe.
As the debate over abortion continues, here are five key facts about Americans’ views on the topic, based on recent Pew Research Center polling:
1About six-in-ten U.S. adults (58%) said in a 2018 survey that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 37% who said it should be illegal all or most of the time. Public opinion on this question has been relatively stable over more than two decades of Pew Research Center polling, and there is little difference between the views of men and women.
2There are substantial partisan and ideological divides on abortion, with Democrats much more likely than Republicans to say it should be legal in all or most cases. This gap is even larger between self-described liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans: Roughly eight-in-ten liberal Democrats (84%) said in the 2018 survey that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with only about three-in-ten conservatives in the GOP (29%).
3When it comes to the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 ruling, about seven-in-ten Americans (69%) said Roe v. Wade should not be completely overturned, according to a survey conducted in late 2016. Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to hold this view, and there were also significant differences by education level and religious affiliation. Nearly nine-in-ten of those with postgraduate degrees (88%) said the court should not overturn the decision, versus about seven-in-ten of those with a college degree (74%) or some college experience (70%) and 62% of those with a high school diploma or less education. There were no significant differences on this question by gender.
4In a December 2017 survey, roughly half of Americans (48%) said having an abortion is morally wrong, while 20% said they think it is morally acceptable and 31% said it is not a moral issue. These views also differed by religious affiliation: About three-quarters of evangelical Protestants (77%) said having an abortion is morally wrong, but just 24% of religiously unaffiliated people agreed.
5The vast majority of Americans expect abortion to remain at least mostly legal in the U.S. A survey conducted in December 2018 asked Americans what they think the status of abortion laws in the country will be in 2050; about three-quarters said it will either be legal with no restrictions (22%) or legal with some restrictions (55%). Far fewer said it will be illegal except in certain cases (16%) or illegal with no exceptions (5%).
Note: This is an update to a post originally published Jan. 22, 2014.