(By Michael Lipka- Pew Research Center) Yesterday, January 22, was the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s decision establishing a woman’s constitutional right to abortion in the first three months of pregnancy. The March for Life, the annual anti-abortion rally in Washington, also takes place today, and abortion remains a divisive political issue.
Here are a few key facts about Americans’ views on the topic, based on recent Pew Research polling:
- More than six-in-ten (63%) U.S. adults say they would not like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn Roe v. Wade, while about three-in-ten (29%) want to see the ruling overturned. These figures have remained relatively stable for more than 20 years.
- There is a growing regional divide in opinions about abortion. Three-quarters of New Englanders (75%) say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while four-in-ten residents (40%) of South Central states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas) say the same. Many states have enacted new abortion restrictions in recent years, and challenges to several of those laws are making their way through the courts.
- Roughly six-in-ten Americans (62%) know that Roe v. Wade was a decision about abortion, but among adults under 30 years old, only 44% know. Younger adults also are less likely to view abortion as an important issue: 62% of Americans ages 18-29 say it is “not that important” compared with other issues, while 53% of adults overall say this.
- According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, 22 states enacted 70 abortion restrictions in 2013, making it second only to 2011 in the number of new restrictions in one year. From 2011 to 2013, 205 abortion restrictions were enacted, while 189 were enacted during the previous decade (2001-2010).
- There’s a difference between what Americans think should be legal and what they think is moral. About half of Americans (49%) say that having an abortion is morally wrong, while 15% think it is morally acceptable and 23% say it is not a moral issue. These views differ by religious affiliation: While 75% of white evangelical Protestants say that having an abortion is morally wrong, 25% of religiously unaffiliated people say so.