A 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, affirmed that access to safe and legal abortion is a constitutional right. But with senators confirming extreme conservatives to lifetime positions on the federal courts — including the Supreme Court — Roe v. Wade is at risk like never before.
The data is clear: Despite attacks on our rights, Americans support Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to access abortion.
Is Roe v. Wade in danger? Here are the facts.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned or further eroded, one-third of all women of reproductive age in America could lose the ability to access abortion in their state.
Abortion Access Before and After Roe v. Wade
Roe wasn’t the beginning of abortion in America. The ruling allowed people to access abortion legally and prevented people dying from unsafe, illegal abortions, , as happened before Roe v. Wade.
In 1965, illegal abortions made up one-sixth of all pregnancy-related deaths — and that’s just according to official reports; doctors think the actual number was a lot higher. Prohibition of legal abortion particularly hurt people with low incomes; a survey conducted in the 1960s found that among women with low incomes in New York City who had obtained an abortion, eight in 10 had attempted a dangerous, self-induced procedure.
Now that abortion is a legal right thanks to Roe, it’s become one of the safest medical procedures in the United States — with a safety record of over 99%. Also, because abortion is legal, people who decide to have an abortion can receive support throughout the process from medical professionals.
Abortion is health care. Before this health care was legal and safe, illegal abortions caused at least 1 in 6 pregnancy-related deaths.
Attacks on Roe v. Wade
The right to safe and legal abortion has been the law of the land for more than 45 years, and is a part of the fabric of this country. Roe v. Wade is clearly established precedent, and it shouldn’t be up for debate. Yet opponents of abortion have made it increasingly difficult for people to access — and these threats are not slowing down.
Brett Kavanaugh's Confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court
Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court dealt a huge blow to our right to access safe, legal abortion. Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump, who had previously made a clear promise to nominate judges who would "automatically" overturn Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh's nomination was widely celebrated by anti-abortion groups as an opportunity to do just that.
There are currently 16 abortion cases that are one step away from the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh’s vote on any one of these could limit our access to safe, legal abortion for generations to come.
Abortion is common. Nearly 1 in 4 women in America will have an abortion during her lifetime. Where will these people go if Roe v. Wade is overturned and abortion is outlawed in their state?
Looming Abortion Restrictions
As part of a broader effort to chip away at Roe v. Wade and ultimately ban abortion nationwide, anti-abortion politicians have been pushing a variety of bills in Congress that would restrict access to abortion at any point during pregnancy. These include efforts to pass a harmful nationwide ban on all abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Existing Federal Abortion Ban
A nationwide abortion ban that became law in 2003 (and that was upheld by a Supreme Court abortion decision in 2007) criminalizes certain abortion procedures in the second trimester of pregnancy — procedures that doctors say are often the safest and best to protect patients' health.
State Attempts to Reverse Roe v. Wade
In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the U.S. Constitution protects people's right to make their own medical decisions, including the decision to have an abortion. Through the more than 45 years since that landmark ruling — in decisions including Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt — the Supreme Court has never wavered from this principle.
Despite this precedent and Americans' consistent support for Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion state legislators continue to attack abortion access through ballot measures and legislative restrictions. As a result of those efforts, 20 states are poised to ban access to abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
Overturning Roe v. Wade would put more than 25 million women at risk of losing access to abortion — more than a third of women of reproductive age in this country.
- More than 4.3 million Hispanic or Latino women
- Nearly 3.5 million Black or African American women
More than 800,000 Asian women
Nearly 300,000 American Indian or Alaska Native women
The 20 states at risk of overturning Roe v. Wade are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Some of these states have existing abortion bans or trigger laws from before Roe v. Wade that could ban abortion immediately if Roe were overturned. These are also states with anti-abortion politicians in power and an established history of passing abortion restrictions.
State Limits on Abortion Access
Attacking abortion access isn’t just about overturning Roe itself. States have been chipping away at abortion access for decades, with the goal of pushing safe and legal abortion out of reach altogether.
From 2011 through 2018, states enacted 424 separate restrictions that seek to shame, pressure, and punish people who decide to have an abortion. Many of these laws blatantly flout Supreme Court precedent — such as in Louisiana, where politicians have tried to enforce abortion restrictions similar to the Texas laws that were found to be unconstitutional.
The restrictions aren’t slowing down. So far this year, states introduced hundreds of new abortion restrictions — and dozens more anti-abortion bills are winding their way through state legislatures. This includes 10 states that introduced six-week abortion bans, which ban abortion at a point before many people even know they’re pregnant.
Efforts to Expand Access
In the face of these threats, there is hope. Pro-reproductive health lawmakers have stepped up to not only ensure abortion remains safe and legal in their states under Roe, but also EXPAND access.
One of those laws is New York’s Reproductive Health Act. When it passed in January 2019, it was hailed as one of the strongest protections for abortion access in any state in the country. The Act ensures that if Roe v. Wade were ever overturned, abortion would remain a legal health procedure in New York — and patients and doctors would not go to jail. It also expands access to abortion later in pregnancy if the pregnancy cannot survive. The Reproductive Health Act is about making sure that at every point in a pregnancy, a patient's health (not a politician's ideology) drives medical decisions.
Illinois, New Mexico and Rhode Island have introduced similar Reproductive Health Acts, which would codify in law what we already know: abortion is not a crime. These bills would safeguard residents’ right to access abortion safely and legally, no matter what might happen at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Americans Overwhelmingly Support the Roe v. Wade Decision
Today, 73% of Americans don’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. That's the highest rate since the case was decided more than 45 years ago — and includes people who voted for Trump.
67% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Most Americans want lawmakers to stay out of the issue of abortion altogether rather than pass new laws to restrict access.
When state legislators introduce or amend abortion laws, most Americans want them to focus on protecting or expanding abortion access rather than trying to restrict it.
Americans are almost twice as likely to vote for a state legislative candidate who supports abortion access.
65% of Americans think a trend to restrict access to abortion care is going in the wrong direction.
Moderates overwhelmingly support Roe v. Wade.
71% of self-described moderate Republicans and liberal Republicans
82% of moderate and conservative Democrats
Roe v. Wade has strong support from Catholic Americans.
Six in 10 Catholics support the decision.
Young people are especially supportive of Roe v. Wade.
And their approval is higher than ever— 82% of 18-29 year olds support Roe v. Wade.
People of color overwhelmingly support Roe v. Wade.
79% of African Americans
71% of Latinxs
74% of Asians/Pacific Islanders
Ensuring That You Have Health Care, No Matter What
Americans don't believe that politicians or judges should be making personal decisions for them about their pregnancies.
Planned Parenthood knows firsthand why it’s so critical that everyone have access to a comprehensive range of reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion. Planned Parenthood is America’s most trusted provider of reproductive health care. One in five American women has chosen Planned Parenthood for health care at least once in her life. Planned Parenthood’s expert health care professionals are dedicated to offering all people high-quality, affordable medical care.
For generations now, we have had the right to make our own personal decisions about when and whether to become a parent, including the right to access to safe, legal abortion services.
It’s up to us — not politicians or judges — to make these fundamental decisions.