Protest for abortion rights (Flickr)

By Amanda Becker / The 19th

Nearly two years after the Supreme Court ended the federal right to abortion, more than a fifth of reproductive-age adult women in states with abortion bans have struggled to access abortion care themselves or know someone who has, according to first-of-its-kind polling released Friday by the nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research group KFF.

A majority of these women — 67 percent — believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to the survey taken February 20-28, 2024. 

KFF categorized 14 states as having “banned” abortion: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Eleven states were categorized as having “limited” abortion: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin. The survey was of women aged 18 to 49, but did not break down results within state categories by race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. 

In states where abortion is banned, 21 percent of women said they or someone they know has had difficulty accessing abortion care, compared to 9 percent in states with abortion limits and 12 percent in states where it is fully legal. 

In response to another poll question, 74 percent of U.S. women said that abortion should be legal in “all or most cases.” In states with bans, 67 percent agreed. In states with limits, 71 percent did. 

Nationally, 88 percent of women — in states with abortion bans, that number is 85 percent — supported “protecting access to abortions for patients who are experiencing miscarriage or other pregnancy-related emergencies.” Eighty percent — 70 percent in states with bans — supported “protecting a patient’s right to travel for medical care, including getting an abortion.” And 70 percent of U.S. women — 66 percent in states with bans — supported “guaranteeing a federal right to abortion,” the KFF survey showed.

It is unclear to what extent voters’ personal difficulties securing an abortion might affect the November elections, but KFF noted that strong support for abortion access from women in states with bans and restrictions “suggest[s] a disconnect between what women in these states support and the policies their state lawmakers have enacted.”

President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats are making the case that they are the party that will protect reproductive rights and stymie Republicans’ attempts to further restrict abortion access. Their pitch paid off in the 2022 midterm elections — the first held after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade — when Democratic candidates suffered fewer losses at the federal level than in past midterm elections for the party in the White House. 

Republicans, meanwhile, are grappling with the unpopularity of their anti-abortion policies among swing voters as they try to appease the fervently anti-abortion component of their base. Former President Donald Trump, the de facto GOP White House nominee, made three nominations to the Supreme Court that cemented its conservative majority and allowed it to overturn Roe. After the high court in Trump’s home state of Florida earlier this week allowed a 6-week abortion ban to stand, he teased an announcement on abortion to come next week. Trump’s position has been hard to nail down, but he has previously suggested that he supports a 15-week cutoff.

Immediately after the Florida Supreme Court ruling, Biden’s campaign manager said that they saw an “opening in Florida” — a state he lost to Trump by about 3.5 points in 2020. But, in a separate decision, the court also ruled that a measure to amend the state constitution to protect abortion rights will be on November ballots. Florida ballot measures have to clear a 60-percent support threshold, so it will need votes from Republicans to pass. Advocates of the abortion-rights measure are wary that if Biden’s campaign gets too involved in their effort, and make it seem like a partisan campaign, it could make their job more difficult. 

In addition to the presidential race, about a third of U.S. Senate seats — 34, in total — will be on November ballots, along with all 435 in the House of Representatives. Eleven states are holding gubernatorial contests, 44 have state legislative elections, 33 will vote for judges to their states’ highest courts and 10 will elect state attorneys general. 

“Support for abortion protections including a federal guarantee to the right to abortion is robust among women, regardless of where they reside,” the KFF analysts concluded. “While substantial minorities of women in states with abortion bans support some restrictions on abortion access, two-thirds of women living in these states think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.”

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Amanda Becker

Amanda Becker is our Washington correspondent. She has covered the U.S. Congress, the White House and elections for more than a decade. Becker previously worked at Reuters and CQ Roll Call. Her work has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, The New Republic and Glamour magazine. Her political coverage has also been broadcast on National Public Radio.

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