Despite Republican lawmakers’ efforts to pass near total bans on abortion across the country, only a small minority of Americans support making the procedure illegal in all cases, a new survey has found.
After interviewing over 40,000 Americans in all 50 states, the Public Religion Research Institute found that there is no state in which more than a quarter of residents support a total ban on abortion. Only 15% of respondents across the country said they believed abortion should be illegal in all cases, while 25% said it should be illegal in most cases.
According to PRRI, folks who say they want abortion to be illegal in most cases are usually making exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
Overall, most Americans (54%) favored the legality of abortion, including 23% who said the procedure should be legal in all cases. These statistics have remained relatively stable since 2014, PRRI reported.
At the same time, Republican lawmakers have engaged in a concerted effort this year to pass laws that make abortion illegal with virtually no exceptions. Many of these new laws are being challenged in courts, and are unlikely to take effect any time soon. However, the push is part of broader attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that recognized a constitutional right to obtain an abortion.
Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio have passed bills prohibiting abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy ― before most people even know they’re pregnant.
Alabama and Missouri have passed abortion bans this year that do not allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest. The Missouri law bans abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, while the Alabama law bans abortions at any stage of pregnancy, unless the pregnant person’s life is threatened. In both states, doctors who perform abortions could face jail time.
PRRI’s survey suggests that only 16% of Alabama’s residents and 19% of Missouri’s residents agreed that abortion should be illegal in all cases.
State lawmakers in Tennessee are currently considering what could become one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans. The proposal would ban abortion after a person finds out they are pregnant. The state’s legislature is expected to debate the bill in January 2020.
Only 21% of Tennesseans said abortion should be illegal in all cases, according to PRRI.
The survey also found that the political divide between Republicans and Democrats on this issue has widened over the past few years ― increasing from 28 percentage points in 2014 to 36 percentage points today. While the majority of Republicans oppose the legality of abortion, only 22% said it should be illegal in absolutely all cases.
Most white evangelical Protestants, a significant portion of President Donald Trump’s base, said that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases (65%). However, even within that religious group, only about 25% said that abortion should be illegal in all cases.
PRRI’s CEO Robert P. Jones said he believes the results of the survey suggest that few Americans, even those living in the country’s most conservative states, believe that abortion should be banned outright.
“These results demonstrate that the Republican-controlled legislatures who have passed state laws that amount to a virtual ban on abortion are out of touch not just with Americans overall but with residents of their own states and members of their own party,” Jones said in a statement.
PRRI’s survey on abortion issues, part of its broader 2018 American Values Atlas, was based on 40,292 phone interviews conducted between March 2018 and December 2019.