Americans say by a roughly 2-to-1 margin that the Supreme Court should uphold its landmark abortion decision in Roe v. Wade, and by a similar margin the public opposes a Texas law banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The Post-ABC poll finds 27 percent of Americans say the court should overturn Roe, while 60 percent say it should be upheld, attitudes that are consistent in polls dating to 2005. More broadly, three-quarters of Americans say abortion access should be left to women and their doctors, while 20 percent say they should be regulated by law.
While Americans have long supported limiting access to abortion after the first trimester of pregnancy, the poll suggests Americans widely oppose recent efforts in conservative-leaning states to enforce more severe restrictions.
Asked about a Texas law that authorizes private citizens anywhere in the country to sue anyone who performs or aids someone in obtaining an abortion in Texas after about six weeks of pregnancy, the Post-ABC poll finds 65 percent say the court should reject the law, while 29 percent say it should be upheld. The Supreme Court is considering the role federal courts can play in evaluating the Texas law, which was intended to avoid federal court review. A separate question finds 36 percent support state laws that make it more difficult for abortion clinics to operate, while 58 percent oppose such restrictions, including 45 percent who oppose them “strongly.”
The Supreme Court established a constitutional right to abortion in 1973’s Roe decision, and reaffirmed it in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That decision acknowledged states have an interest in protecting unborn life, but may not enact laws that create an undue burden on seeking an abortion before a fetus could survive outside the womb, generally around 22 to 24 weeks.
But the court now has a 6 to 3 conservative majority and signaled a willingness to reexamine its precedents by reviewing Mississippi’s 15-week prohibition, which lower courts struck down for being in conflict with the decisions in Roe and Casey. Three of the conservative justices — Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — were nominated by President Donald Trump, who said he would select nominees who would overturn Roe. All said at their confirmation hearings they had not prejudged the issue.
When the court took the Mississippi case, it said it would answer one question: whether all pre-viability bans on elective abortions are unconstitutional. But the state since then has asked the court to use the case to overturn Roe and Casey, and return decisions on abortion to the states.
The poll results show why some on the court might be reluctant to take such a bold step. Roe has become synonymous with a woman’s right to choose abortion, even as some restrictions on the process can be politically popular.
Americans’ views on abortion range widely across party lines, though Democrats and Republicans are not mirror opposites. An 82 percent majority of Democrats and 58 percent of independents say the court should uphold Roe, while Republicans are divided, with 42 percent saying the ruling should be upheld and 45 percent saying it should be overturned. And while a 55 percent majority of Republicans say the court should uphold the Texas abortion law, even larger majorities of independents (68 percent) and Democrats (89 percent) say it should be rejected.
Women are more likely to say the court should uphold Roe than men, 64 percent to 56 percent, although partisanship outweighs gender, with Democratic men and Democratic women holding similar views on the issue, and vice versa for Republicans.
Support for overturning Roe peaks among White evangelical Protestants, 58 percent of whom say the court should overturn the precedent. Among evangelical Protestants regardless of race, 43 percent say Roe should be upheld, while 45 percent say it should be overturned. A 62 percent majority of Catholics say the court should uphold Roe, as do 73 percent of those who identify with no religious group.
The Post-ABC poll finds broader agreement that women and their doctors should make decisions about abortion rather than being regulated by law. Overall, 75 percent say such decisions should be left to the woman and her doctor, including 95 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of independents and 53 percent of Republicans.
Roughly 8 in 10 women and 7 in 10 men prefer that women and doctors make decisions about abortion rather than being regulated by law. White evangelical Protestants are about evenly split.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted Nov. 7 to 10 among a random sample of 1,001 adults nationwide on cellphones and landlines. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 points for overall results and is larger for subgroups.
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.