I previously wrote about how most Americans are not aligned by the most extreme views of both parties on abortion. Many Democratic leaders have been speaking of absolute abortion rights, as reflected in states like Colorado which recognize the right to abortion until the moment of birth at nine months. Many Republican leaders have been speaking of absolute or near absolute bans on abortion, as reflected in states like Arkansas with only limited exceptions for the life of the mother. Now a Harvard poll reaffirms earlier polling that shows most Americans embrace views closer to Mississippi than Michigan on abortion. Indeed, while Democratic leaders denounced the Mississippi law setting a 15-week limit on abortion, 72 percent of those polled opposed abortion generally after that limit.
A poll conducted after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade found that 72 percent of Americans would allow abortion only until the 15th week of pregnancy or a more restrictive law. That transcends party affiliation. Even 60 percent of Democrats believe abortion should be prohibited after the 15th week or a more restrictive law.
That is also consistent with most other countries. Internationally, only seven countries allow abortion after the 20th week.
Notably, 75 percent of women support the 15-week cut-off or a more restrictive law while 69 percent of men also agree with that timeline.
The poll also shows that 44 percent of voters believe that state legislatures should have the power to determine abortion standards while 25 percent believe Supreme Court justices should decide the issue. Another 31 percent believe that Congress should pass national abortion laws.
This and other polling shows that, while most Americans support a federal right to abortion, they do not support the more liberal position of abortion rights extending beyond 15 weeks. In other words, they hold a position closer to where the concurrence of Chief Justice John Roberts would have left the matter: to uphold Mississippi’s law while preserving Roe v. Wade. That is significantly at odds with the position of the dissenting justices and most of the Democratic leaders, including candidates like Tim Ryan in Ohio in close races. That may suggest that there is a more nuanced position of voters going into the upcoming midterm elections.
Indeed, the poll may reflect even greater opposition to the sweeping abortion language of Democratic leaders and many pundits. The poll does not show that level of support for the 15-week limit as opposed to a shorter period or more restrictive laws. Indeed, many appear to oppose such an allowance:
“Do you think your state should allow abortion…?”
Up to 9 months: 10%
Up to 23 weeks: 18%
Up to 15 weeks: 23%
Up to six weeks: 12%
Only in cases of rape and incest: 37%
Those saying that they would allow abortion up to six weeks clearly do not support abortion up to 15 weeks. Likewise, those who would allow abortion only in cases of rape and incest are not endorsing a period of allowable abortion (without such justification) up to 15 weeks. (Conversely, those who would allow abortion for rape or incest may or may not support such a right beyond the 15th week).
The point remains the same. While the media has been overwhelmingly portraying voters as pro-abortion based on the question of whether they would overturn Roe v. Wade, the specific question reflects far greater opposition to abortion, particularly beyond the 15th week.
What is clear is that only 28 percent support abortion for either the full months (10 percent) or up to 23 weeks (18 percent). That is notable because is suggests that Democratic leaders (and states like Colorado) pushing absolute definitions of abortion actually have a small percentage of support for such position.
NB: This blog was edited to reflect more accurately the poll results.