Chart of the Day: Voters know that abortion is about economic justice and gender equality

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The anti-choice movement has done its damndest to isolate the issue of abortion. Conservative politicians are prone to dismissing reproductive rights as a divisive “social issue” that’s less serious than–and completely disconnected from–the “bread and butter” economic issues their voters supposedly care about more. But a new poll commissioned by the National Institute for Reproductive Health suggests that Americans are not fooled—instead, they easily make the connections between access to abortion, economic stability, and women’s broader gender equality. 

The poll surveyed voters in New York and Pennsylvania, two states that considered packages of bills to advance women’s equality earlier this year. Huge majorities (80 percent in PA and 84 percent in NY) supported the legislation overall–which in addition to protections for abortion access included other pro-equality policies, such as workplace protections for pregnant workers, suport for domestic violence survivors, and equal pay measures, etc.–and about three quarters said they wanted the agenda to include the abortion protections.

Far from seeing abortion access as something that shouldn’t be included in the broader agendas–let alone a poison pill that would sink their support for the legislation–voters agreed that reproductive rights are pretty key part of ensuring gender equality. As the chart above shows, strong majorities in both states agreeed that a woman’s ability to control whether or when she has children is important to her financial stability and equality.

When the question is about the impact of access to abortion specifically, the figure drops slightly to about half. But that simply suggests that we need to more clearly show that abortion is a very common way that people control their reproductive lives–by fighting the stigma that paints folks who have abortions as “the other” when in fact we’re not–and continuing to highlight just how precarious access to the procedure has become, particularly for those with the least financial stability.

It’s not at all surprising, of course, that real people, with plenty of experience living, working, parenting, following their dreams, supporting their families, and spending decades trying to control their fertility in a messy and often difficult world, would make these connections. But it’s a good reminder to pro-choice lawmakers and advocates not to shy away from making an explicitly feminist and economic justice case for abortion rights.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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