Pew Study reveals strong support for abortion in North America

Jun 14, 2024 | Canadian News, International News, News

Abortion has long been a controversial issue, and America is no exception. The nation’s growing support for this right has had effects north of the border, where public opinion as well as political battles over it are changing.

A recent survey by Pew Research Center found 63 per cent of Americans feel that abortion should be legal in all or most cases – an increase from 59 per cent last year.

In a similar global survey by Pew conducted in 2023, 79 per cent of Canadians believe abortion should remain legal.

The American study was conducted between April 8 to 14, 2024, and included 8,709 U.S. respondents. The participants were members of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP). This is an online survey panel recruited through national and random samplings of residences and had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

The study found more than two-thirds of Americans still support abortion access following the 2022 Supreme Court decision which overturned Roe v. Wade (1973) in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Despite the overall consensus on the matter, there are significant divisions between political parties, with 85 per cent of Democrats and people who lean towards them saying it should be legal all or most of the time compared to only 41 per cent of Republicans or those who identify as leaning right.

But even within their ranks – most notably among moderates and liberals—66 per cent of GOP supporters favour making the procedure more accessible than not.

Pew found 32 per cent of respondents identify with both statements, reflecting complex attitudes towards abortion.

Geographical differences also play a key role, with only 20 per cent of adults in states where abortion is legal say they find it difficult to obtain an abortion, compared to 71 per cent in states where abortion is prohibited.

The Pew study found support for legal abortion varies by race, age, education, and religion. For instance, 76 per cent of Asian adults and 73 per cent of Black adults support legal abortion, compared to 60 per cent of White and 59 per cent of Hispanic adults.

Americans under 30, seem particularly supportive of reproductive rights with 76 per cent saying they are in support of it over older generations.

Savni Sawant, a former clinical Embryologist at Nova IVF and current PhD student at Wayne State University in Michigan, has been studying embryos, viability and reproductive access since 2016. She says access to abortion is an important issue and something that must be addressed as it affects people in her field as well.

“Abortion laws have a significant impact on how IVF practices and reproductive technology procedures are carried out across the U.S. or wherever these laws are implemented,” she said. “During IVF, some embryos are discarded or may die spontaneously due to quality issues.

“If abortion is considered the removal of an embryo from the body, then the death of an embryo created outside the body during IVF could also be viewed as an abortion under such laws,” Sawant said.

A recent ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court, which classifies frozen embryos as children and holds individuals liable for their accidental destruction, has introduced a new dimension to the US debate over reproductive medicine. This would put current and future IVF practitioners in states like Alabama at risk of arrest.

Sawant said policymakers and scientists need to educate the public about embryonic development and viability.

She said that many embryos have genetic or physical deformities preventing further development and viability begins at 24 weeks of gestation.

Sawant says emphasizing these points can shape policy debates by highlighting the lower chances of survival and development for embryos and early-stage fetuses.

In Canada, the abortion debate mirrors ongoing discussions in the US. Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall’s Bill C-311 aimed to increase penalties for attacks on pregnant women but was defeated in June 2023 amid accusations of undermining abortion access.

While abortion is legal in Canada, many women across the country still struggle with access. Canada lacks a federal abortion law, leaving the procedure under provincial jurisdiction.

New Brunswick has the strictest abortion access laws in the nation.

Currently, only three hospitals in Moncton and Bathurst provide abortion services, leaving many vulnerable residents in the province without adequate care.

Despite widespread support for safe and legal abortion among Canadians, pro-life groups continue to influence legislation.

Pressure on Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre to clarify his stance on abortion intensified as anti-abortion protesters gathered for the annual “March for Life” rally.

Poilievre’s spokesperson, Sebastian Skamski, said a Conservative government would not legislate on abortion or use the notwithstanding clause.