Poll: Even after Roe, most Americans support abortion restrictions

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Catholic News Agency


A new poll has found that a majority of Americans support some limits on abortion and that Americans’ attitudes toward abortion have not significantly changed since last January, even with the overturning of Roe v. Wade taking place last June. 

Conducted by Marist and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the 2023 poll found that when asked whether they identify as “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” 61 percent of Americans identify with the latter, compared with 39 percent who describe themselves as pro-life. 

However, the poll also found that 69 percent of Americans support limiting abortion to, at most, the first three months of pregnancy. That figure is comparable to the 2022 poll, conducted before the overturning of Roe, in which 71 percent of respondents agreed that abortion should not be allowed after the first trimester. Only 21 percent of Americans overall said they support abortion on demand. 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned a previously-found constitutional right to abortion instead returning the question of abortion policy to each individual state. In last year’s poll, respondents were asked their opinion on how abortion should be regulated, and 44% said abortion policy should be determined at the state level.

The poll, released Jan. 18, found that 60 percent of respondents oppose using U.S. tax dollars for abortion services domestically, and 78 percent oppose the use of public funds for abortion services abroad.

Notably, the poll also found that 90 percent of Americans said this year that they believe it is possible to have laws that protect both the health and well-being of a woman and the life of the unborn baby, as opposed to one or the other. This level of public opinion is a new high, up from 81 percent last year. “Since the start of the Knights of Columbus–Marist Poll in 2008, we’ve seen a consistent and clear consensus of Americans who support restrictions on abortion,” Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly said in a Wednesday statement. 

“Too often, the abortion debate is framed in the context of supporting either [the mother or the unborn child]. The reality is, we can — and must — craft laws that protect both mothers and their children.”

The poll relied on 1,025 adults residing in the United States and was conducted in both English and Spanish, online and via phone January 6–9. 

Even after a “contentious year” when conversations about abortion were “front and center for many Americans,” the 2023 results are “comparable to the findings of a Knights of Columbus–Marist Poll conducted last January,” said Barbara L. Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll. The percentage of Americans supporting a ban on abortion after three months has fallen from a high of 86 percent in 2009. Last year, in 2022, the number was 71 percent. 

Carvalho said that although a majority of Americans self-identify as pro-choice, the poll questions asking more precisely about their positions on abortion show most people hold pro-life views.

According to the poll, 77 percent of Americans believe doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals with religious objections to abortion should not be legally required to perform the procedure. In addition, a majority of Americans — 60 percent — are opposed to abortion when there is a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Ninety-four percent of Americans said they oppose sex-selective abortions. 

The poll also included a question about whether Americans support pregnancy resource centers — places that do not perform abortions but instead offer support to people during their pregnancy and after the baby is born. There are an estimated 3,000 such centers in the United States. According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the research arm of SBA Pro-Life America, more than 800,000 unborn babies’ lives were saved between 2016 and 2020 because of pregnancy centers. 

The poll found that 91 percent of Americans support or strongly support pregnancy resource centers, while only 9 percent oppose them, strongly or otherwise. Even among Democrats and those who identify as pro-choice, support for pregnancy centers was high, at 89 percent and 88 percent respectively.

The high level of public support found by the poll contrasts with a growing number of incidents of vandalism and arson attacks directed at pregnancy centers since last summer, many of which carry a message of intimidation and include similar pro-abortion messages. 

Ever since a draft of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe was leaked in May 2022, CNA has tracked and mapped more than 100 incidents of pro-abortion vandalism across the United States, including at least 56 at pregnancy centers and 33 at churches of various denominations.