National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Commentary highlights widespread support for abortion rights, misunderstanding among politicians, media

"Political candidates, consultants, and the media generally misunderstand the politics of abortion rights," Gloria Totten, president of the Public Leadership Institute, writes in a commentary in The Hill, highlighting poll findings that "prov[e] that voters overwhelmingly support abortion rights both in general and when asked about specific reproductive rights policies."

According to Totten, the Public Leadership Institute commissioned the poll, which was conducted by Ann Selzer, who FiveThirtyEight named "The Best Pollster in Politics."

The poll found that U.S. voters "by a margin of 69-to-27 percent ... approve of the constitutional right to abortion established ... in Roe v. Wade," Totten states. She adds that the "result is similar to many polls over the years that have found Americans approving Roe by margins of 2-to-1 or greater."

When asked to express their stance on abortion rights using a one-to-10 scale in which "1 mean[t] totally opposed to all abortions and 10 mean[t] totally favoring complete access to abortion, only 28 percent answered 1, 2 or 3 while 44 percent said 8, 9 or 10," Totten writes.

According to Totten, the poll also found widespread support for reproductive rights when respondents were "asked about specific proactive measures." For example, U.S. voters support, "by a margin of 86-to-11 percent, that when a woman reports a sexual assault to authorities they be required to inform her about emergency contraception." As another example, Totten notes that by a margin of 84-to-13 percent, U.S. voters "want to require pharmacies to dispense contraceptives to any woman with a lawful prescription and to stock over-the-counter emergency contraception." The poll also found that U.S. voters, by a margin of 82-to-14 percent, "favor creating programs to raise awareness of the effectiveness of long-acting reversible contraceptives," Totten writes.

Further, regarding crisis pregnancy centers, U.S. voters "by a margin of 77-to-18 percent" support "requiring that those which receive government funding cannot give a woman medically false information, such as the claim that abortion causes cancer." In addition, according to Totten, "By 75-to-21 percent, voters want CPCs that are not licensed to practice medicine to have to post a sign saying so." Respondents also indicated, by a margin of 62-to-33 percent, that "they want to ban CPCs from using ads to mislead pregnant women into believing that the CPC offers abortion services."

Totten highlights other poll findings, noting that 81 percent of respondents "favor protecting staff and patients" at reproductive health clinics from "harassment and violence by requiring protesters to remain at least 8 feet away" and 75 percent of respondents "favor protecting employees from being fired or punished for their health decisions," such as choosing to have an abortion or to give birth. In addition, majorities of respondents also favor "allowing nurse practitioners to dispense and supervise medication abortion"; "allowing a woman ... seeking an abortion to opt out of state-mandated, medically unnecessary" requirements, such as mandatory delays and ultrasounds; and "requiring all health insurance plans, including Medicaid, to cover legal abortion services." Totten adds, "Significantly, eight of these specific reproductive rights measures are favored by a majority of those voters who want to overturn Roe v. Wade."

Spotlighting the disparity between voters and elected officials, Totten concludes, "If political elites understood what voters want in reproductive rights, we'd see a very different policy debate. Elected officials and advocates who support abortion rights would boldly introduce proactive legislation at the federal, state and local levels and force their anti-abortion opponents to defend unpopular positions" (Totten, The Hill, 10/13).