The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, affirmed that access to safe and legal abortion is a constitutional right.
Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973. Today, 73 percent of Americans — including a majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans — don’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
The data is clear: Despite attacks on our rights, Americans support Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to access abortion.
Abortion Access: Then & Now
Roe wasn’t the beginning of abortion in America — rather, it allowed people to access abortion legally and prevented people dying from unsafe, illegal abortions.
In 1965, illegal abortions made up one-sixth of all pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths. A survey conducted in the1960s found that eight in 10 women with low incomes in New York City who had an abortion attempted a dangerous self-induced procedure.
But 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 percent. Also, because abortion is legal, people who decide to have an abortion can receive support throughout the process from medical professionals.
Attacks on Roe v. Wade
The right to safe and legal abortion has been the law of the land for more than 40 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. And yet, opponents of abortion have made it increasingly harder 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.
Prior to joining the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh had a long record of ruling to limit access to safe, legal abortion:
Just last year, he tried to use his judicial power to prevent a young undocumented woman in U.S. custody from accessing a safe, legal abortion.
He praised a dissent in Roe v. Wade, calling the constitutional right to abortion a "freewheeling" reading of the Constitution.
When the Senate asked Kavanaugh whether Roe v. Wade was decided correctly or whether he recognizes the right to privacy, he repeatedly dodged the question.
Recently leaked emails show that Kavanaugh doesn't consider Roe v. Wade to be settled law — or consider it safe from being overturned.
There are currently 13 abortion cases that are one step away from the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh would likely have the chance to rule on one of these pivotal abortion cases as soon as his first year on the bench. His rulings could limit our access to safe, legal abortion for generations to come.
With Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, access to abortion across the country is at risk.
Twenty states are poised to ban abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned, threatening access for more than 25 million women — or a third of all women of reproductive age in this country.
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. That includes efforts to pass a harmful nationwide ban on all abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Existing Federal Abortion Ban
An abortion ban that became law in 2003 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007 criminalizes certain abortion procedures in the second trimester of pregnancy — procedures that doctors say are often the safest and best to protect women's health.
State Attacks on Roe v. Wade
In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the U.S. Constitution protects a person's right to make their own medical decisions, including the decision to have an abortion. In the more than 40 years following 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-women’s health state legislators continue to attack abortion access through ballot measures and legislative restrictions.
Since 2011, politicians have passed more than 400 new state abortion restrictions that shame, pressure, and punish people who have decided to have an abortion. In the first quarter of 2018, 37 states introduced 308 new abortion restrictions. Many of these laws blatantly flout Supreme Court precedent — such as in Missouri, where politicians are trying to enforce abortion restrictions nearly identical to the Texas laws that were found to be unconstitutional just two years ago.
Currently, 20 states are poised to ban access to abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned, threatening access for more than 25 million women. That's more than a third of women of reproductive age in this country. It includes:
- 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
These 20 states a 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 pre-Roe abortion bans or trigger laws that could ban abortion immediately if Roe's overturned. These are also states with anti-abortion politicians in power and an established history of passing abortion restrictions.
Americans Overwhelmingly Support Roe v. Wade and Don't Want it Overturned
Seventy-three percent 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 it includes people who voted for Trump.
- Sixty-seven percent 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 engage around abortion, 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.
- Sixty-five percent of Americans think a trend to restrict access to abortion care is going in the wrong direction.
Moderates overwhelmingly support Roe v. Wade. That includes:
71 percent of self-described moderate Republicans and liberal Republicans
82 percent 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. Eighty-two percent of 18-29 year olds support Roe v. Wade.
People of color overwhelmingly support Roe v. Wade. That includes:
79 percent of African Americans
71 percent of Latinxs
74 percent of Asians/Pacific Islanders
Americans simply don't believe that politicians or judges should be making personal decisions for people about their pregnancies.
Ensuring That Women Have Health Care, No Matter What
Planned Parenthood is America’s most trusted provider of reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood’s expert health care professionals are dedicated to offering all people high-quality, affordable medical care.
One in five American women has chosen Planned Parenthood for health care at least once in her life. 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.
BOTTOM LINE: For generations now, people have had the right to make their own personal decisions about when and whether to become a parent, including the right to access to safe, legal abortion services.