Published December 1, 2021
In light of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments Wednesday on Mississippi’s abortion law, pro-life advocates may have what they’ve been seeking for decades: A chance to overturn Roe v. Wade. If successful, however, they are likely to find that overturning Roe will be the easiest part of their quest to outlaw abortion.
Overturning Roe will not suddenly make abortion illegal throughout the country. Instead, it will simply return the abortion question to the political process. That means public opinion, which Roe has peremptorily suppressed for almost 50 years, will rule the roost. And it is decidedly mixed.
The American Enterprise Institute’s Karlyn Bowman has compiled an indispensable guide to Americans’ attitudes toward abortion since Roe was decided in 1973. It shows that roughly half of the country believes having an abortion is morally wrong, similar to the share of people who say they are pro-life vs. pro-choice. But it also shows that between 61 and 68 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, according to polls conducted within the past year by the Pew Research Center, Quinnipiac University and the Public Religion Research Institute. Indeed, roughly half of the country thinks that a woman should be able to have an abortion for any reason, including if she doesn’t think she can afford another child or simply doesn’t want more children.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.