New Marist Poll Finds American Majority Want ‘Roe v. Wade’ to Go

For the past 14 years, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, has partnered with Marist Poll to survey Americans’ attitudes on abortion.

Instead of separating the well-being of a mother and an unborn child, 81% of Americans believe laws can protect both mother and baby.
Instead of separating the well-being of a mother and an unborn child, 81% of Americans believe laws can protect both mother and baby. (photo: Jeff McCoy / Shutterstck)

WASHINGTON — More than 60% of Americans disagree with the central holding of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a new Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll survey.

The poll, released two days before the Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe v. Wade, found that 44% say that the Supreme Court should leave abortion up to each individual state and 17% say the court should make abortion illegal.

The Supreme Court will decide later this year Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenges Roe v. Wade and asks “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” or whether states can ban abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb.

While 55% of respondents identified as “pro-choice” and 40% called themselves “pro-life,” only 17% agreed that “abortion should be available to a woman any time she wants one during her entire pregnancy.” This number stayed low regardless of political affiliation. Only 31% of Democrats, 1% of Republicans, and 19% of independents said a woman should be able to obtain an abortion at any time.

In other words, 83% of Americans want some kind of limit on abortion.

“I think what is really an important takeaway is that opinion itself on abortion, although in the political realm is always discussed as complex and complicated, it is very clear in terms of public opinion,” Marist Poll Director Barbara Carvalho said during a press call. 

For the past 14 years, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, has partnered with Marist Poll to survey Americans’ attitudes on abortion. This latest survey of 1,004 adults was conducted Jan. 4—9.

Both Carvalho and Timothy Saccoccia, vice president of public policy for the Knights of Columbus, pointed to the survey results regarding gestational limits when CNA asked what they found most surprising.

Here, Americans answered “at which point should abortions for other reasons be limited” if abortion remains legal including for cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of a mother.  42% said “the point at which a fetus can feel pain,” 36% said “the point at which a fetus can live outside the womb” (or the point of viability), 11% volunteered responses, and another 11% responded “unsure.”

“Anytime we see kind of double digits on a question where there is — where we have so many possibilities of a response, that suggests that people aren’t necessarily on one side or the other, but they are weighing what this actually means,” Carvalho explained. “I think that’s a very interesting number given that viability has been something that has been in part of this process for such a very, very long time.”

Regarding the threshold of fetal pain or viability, she added, “I think that that probably is one of the questions that the data would be most against the conventional wisdom that we have seen both in Congress and in the debate of this issue.”

Saccoccia also told CNA that “Any time we ask a new question, I think we’re always interested to see what the result is going to be.”

He pointed to the question regarding medical abortion. The survey found that 63% of Americans oppose or strongly oppose new federal rules that allow sending prescription drugs that induce an abortion through the mail instead of getting them in-person from a specially certified health provider. 

This comes after the Food and Drug Administration lifted restrictions on mifepristone, a drug approved for use in medical abortions, in December.

“That was an interesting tidbit of information to learn,” Saccoccia said, “especially as that conversation is really starting up and as people are talking about it more, especially in light of potential changes that could come following any decision in the Dobbs case.”

At another point, he said of Dobbs: “I think as the Supreme Court considers the case . . . the American people are paying attention and have opinions there that would seem to indicate an opportunity to reconsider and an opportunity to view these more nuanced opinions in law and in jurisprudence.”

The survey findings broke down the numbers by political affiliation and by Americans’ position on abortion. The survey also found that 54% of Americans oppose or strongly oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion and 73% oppose or strongly oppose using tax dollars to fund abortion services in other countries.

The survey addressed religious objections to abortion, particularly in health care. 71% of respondents said doctors, nurses, or other health care professionals who have religious objections to abortion should not be legally required to perform abortions. 54% of them think that organizations who have religious objections to abortion should not be legally required to provide insurance coverage for abortions.

Instead of separating the well-being of a mother and an unborn child, 81% of Americans believe laws can protect both mother and baby.

As president of pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, Marjorie Dannenfelser welcomed the results.

“Life is winning in hearts and minds across America,” she said in a statement. “For almost 50 years the Supreme Court has tied the hands of elected leaders nationwide as they strive to protect the unborn and their mothers, even from late-term abortions that inflict excruciating pain on children in the womb. Now, that right may finally be restored and the will of the people reflected in the law.”

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