Most Americans Want Federal Law for Legal Abortion, Poll Shows

May 9, 2022 — The majority of Americans want Congress to pass a federal law that makes abortion legal nationwide, according to a new poll by CBS News/YouGov.

About 58% of U.S. adults said they were in favor, while 42% were opposed.

The poll, which included more than 2,000 adults, was conducted between May 4-8 following the leak of a draft opinion that shows the Supreme Court could overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision this summer.

If the Supreme Court moves forward with the decision, states could then set their own laws on abortion. About half of states are expected to quickly enact abortion bans or severe restrictions, according to The Hill.

In the CBS/YouGov poll, 64% of respondents want to keep Roe v. Wade as is, while 36% said they want the Supreme Court to overturn it. Among those who want to keep it, 82% also favor a federal law for legal abortion.

Among those who want to keep Roe v. Wade, 70% said they feel “discouraged” and 68% said they feel “angry” about the potential of the law being overturned. In the poll, 82% of people who want to keep Roe v. Wade said that overturning it is a “danger to women” and threatens rights in general.

About 66% of those polled — particularly women under age 50 — said they think peeling back the law would lead to restrictions on other rights as well, such as birth control and family planning choices.

Among the one-third of Americans who want to see the law overturned, 85% said the move would “be a protection for the unborn,” and 64% said it would “be a protection for women.” About 72% said they were “hopeful” and 61% said they were “happy” about the law potentially being overturned.

At the same time, a national ban on abortion didn’t find majority favor. About 33% of those polled were in favor, and 67% were opposed.

At the state level, 33% of the poll respondents said abortion should be legal in all cases, while 32% said it should be legal in most cases. On the other hand, 23% said it should be illegal in most cases, while 12% said it should be illegal in all cases.

Among those who want abortion to be legal in their state, 94% said it would “protect victims of rape/incest,” and 91% said “women should have the right to choose.” In addition, 90% said it would “keep abortion safe,” and 89% said it would “protect women with high-risk pregnancies.”

Among those who want abortion to be illegal in their state, 90% said it would “protect the life of the unborn,” and 74% said “abortion is not a right.” What’s more, 68% said “abortions are too easy to obtain,” and 66% said it was “against religious beliefs.” If abortions take place in their state, opponents said criminal penalties should be charged against the abortion doctor, medical staff, any person or company helping to pay for it, the woman having the abortion, or anyone helping the woman to get the abortion.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, most poll respondents said they believe access to abortion services will be a particular challenge for women of color and those with low incomes. About 63% said access will be harder for poor women, and 58% said access will be harder for women of color, versus 35% who said access will be harder for white women, and 19% who said access will be harder for wealthy women.

Last week, in a separate poll from the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans supported the right to an abortion. About 61% said it should be legal in all or most cases.

In the poll, fewer than 8% said abortion should always be illegal, without exception. Among those who believe abortion should be illegal in most cases, 46% said it should be allowed if the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life or health.

Senate Votes Wednesday on Abortion Rights Bill

The U.S. Senate is slated to vote Wednesday on legislation that could codify abortion rights into law, according to Reuters.

The vote is coming in reaction to last week’s leaked Supreme Court draft decision. The vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act is expected to fail on Wednesday, but Senate Democrats say voters will then have a clear view of their representatives’ stances on abortion.

“Every American will see how every senator stands,” Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday during a news conference to announce the upcoming vote.

Schumer said he would file cloture on Monday, and the Senate would vote on the bill on Wednesday.

Republicans “can’t duck it anymore,” he said. “Republicans have tried to duck it.”

Schumer called the Supreme Court’s draft decision an “abomination” and noted that most Americans want to preserve the right to an abortion and women’s health care, Reuters reported.

“Choice should not be up to a handful of right-wing justices. Choice should not be up to a handful of right-wing politicians,” he said. “It’s a woman’s right. Plain and simple.”

In an interview with USA Today, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said a national abortion ban was “possible” if the Supreme Court’s draft document became the official opinion and the Republican Party gained control of the Senate after this year’s elections.

“If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies — not only at the state level but at the federal level — certainly could legislate in that area,” he said. “So yeah, it’s possible.”