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There Isn’t a State in Which a Majority Think Abortion Should Be Totally Illegal

Even in states where outlawing all abortions is the most popular, support caps out at 14 percent, new polling finds.

Abortion rights activists protest in front of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver, Colorado, on June 27, 2022.

A huge new poll of people in every state and Washington, D.C., finds that making abortion illegal in all cases is extremely unpopular across the U.S.

According to the results of a 2022 survey of nearly 23,000 adults by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released Thursday, there isn’t a single state in the U.S. in which a majority of people think that abortion should be totally outlawed — not even close. On average across the U.S., less than 1 in 10 people say abortion should be illegal in all cases. Of the states with the largest proportion of residents — seen in Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia — who agree with the idea, support caps out at mere 14 percent.

By contrast, a majority of residents in most states say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases, with about 65 percent of Americans saying such on average, the survey found. Only seven states don’t have a majority of people agreeing that abortion should be legal in most or all cases — and, in several states, support for the idea is close to or above 80 percent.

The poll is the first large-scale survey done by PRRI since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year by extremist right-wing Supreme Court justices, a decision that the poll also finds is unpopular. Across the U.S., there were zero states in which most residents agreed with the decision to overturn Roe. Only about a third of people overall said they favored the decision.

The results add to a mountain of polls finding that, despite the fact that right-wing lawmakers are pursuing and implementing anti-abortion laws across the country, the public wants abortion to remain legal. They also demonstrate how attitudes toward the medical procedure have grown more favorable in recent years, especially now that the constitutional right has been yanked away from tens of millions of Americans.

Indeed, the polling finds that support for abortion rights has grown over the past decade. Sixty-five percent of Americans surveyed by PRRI said they agreed abortion should be legal in most or all cases in 2022, up from 55 percent in 2010.

Meanwhile, in 2010, PRRI found that 15 percent of people said that abortion should be illegal in all cases. Now that proportion sits at 7 percent, having decreased significantly in recent years, especially among Republicans.

Outlawing all abortions is unpopular for a reason. It is too soon after Dobbs v. Jackson to compare rates of parental death, but experts have said that abortion bans will lead to an increase in parental mortality — one study found that a nationwide ban would increase parental deaths by 24 percent, with a 39 percent rise for Black parents.

Though no state has yet to pass a bill that technically outlaws all abortion, several states have outlawed abortion at all stages of pregnancy — and the results of these and even seemingly less strict bans have already been having a massive chilling effect on abortions. Many states’ bans provide supposed exceptions for cases like rape or when the parent’s life is in danger. But, in practice, those falling in those categories are often denied abortions anyway, with providers fearing lawsuits, criminal charges or their licenses being revoked.

Horrifying stories have emerged since abortion bans have been implemented at the state level. People have documented being denied crucial medication used to treat illnesses unrelated to pregnancy, almost dying from being denied an abortion, or being forced to give birth to a dead or dying fetus. Outlawing abortion in all cases across the U.S. would only cause appalling cases like this to multiply as people become prohibited from traveling across state lines to obtain the procedure.

Republicans are pursuing such legislation, regardless — or perhaps in pursuit — of these outcomes and the unpopularity of abortion bans. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) introduced legislation for a nationwide abortion ban recently, which would criminalize abortions past 15 weeks, with very few exceptions.

Moreover, even though abortion bans likely contributed to the GOP’s relatively shoddy performance in the midterm elections, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution in January doubling down on abortion bans. The resolution directs congressional and Republicans state lawmakers to “go on offense” to pursue the “strongest” anti-abortion legislation “possible.”

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