Americans remain divided on the question of abortion, but not always in the pro-choice/pro-life divide often portrayed, a new poll from the Pew Research Center revealed Friday.
The nonpartisan group said 61% of Americans believe abortion should be legal, in most cases (36%), or with either no exceptions (19%) or some exceptions (19%).
A total of 37% of those surveyed believe abortion should be illegal in most cases (27%), without exception (8%), or in all cases with “some exceptions” (2%). Of those who say they oppose abortion, 33% would allow it if the pregnancy resulted from rape, with another 27% saying “it depends.”
Asked if abortion should be legal if the pregnancy poses a threat to the woman’s “life or health,” 46% of abortion opponents said yes, and 37% opposed an exception for rape. A further 27% said “It depends,” the group reported.
One-in-three adults said two apparently contradictory statements – that life begins at conception and that a pregnant woman is the only one to decide on whether to have an abortion – represented their views “at least somewhat well,” while 38% said those statements did not line up with their perspective.
The survey also noted a difference between the moral view of abortion, with 47% of Americans viewing it as “morally wrong” in most or all cases, versus 22% who believe it “should be illegal in every situation where they believe it is immoral.” Almost half of all adults, 48%, said abortion should be legal in circumstances where it is morally wrong.
The research showed that the progress of a pregnancy figures into many Americans’ views on when abortion should be permitted. At six weeks of gestation, 25% said abortion should be legal, a number that drops to 15% at 14 weeks and 3% at 24 weeks. Making an abortion illegal rose from 12% at six weeks to 19% at 14 weeks and 34% at 24 weeks.
White evangelical Protestants are most opposed to abortion (71%), followed by Black Protestants (51%) and Roman Catholics (41%). Among non-evangelical White Protestants, 28% reported they oppose abortion. And for those who say they are agnostics, atheists or select “nothing in particular” for religious belief, only 7 percent said they oppose legalized abortion.
Pew said it conducted the survey of 10,441 U.S. adults from March 7-13, 2022, nearly two months before the May 2 leak of a draft majority Supreme Court opinion in Mississippi’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.
The leaked draft, whose authenticity was confirmed by Chief Justice John Roberts, would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, a move that would delegate abortion regulation to the states. The group said it had undertaken the survey because of the pending Dobbs case decision.