chart of Americans views on how the abortion experience should be

Majority of Americans agree on what the abortion experience should be like

Vox conducted an interesting new survey on the public’s opinions on abortion. The results, from a nationally representative sample of US adults, echo what’s been clear for awhile now: that the labels of “pro-choice” and “pro-life” don’t line up very well with people’s actual views. 

Like previous polling that has asked respondents to expand on their beliefs about the morality, legality, and availability of abortion, public opinion is only really “split” on abortion when it comes to those labels. Only a minority of Americans support the anti-choice movement’s goal of outlawing abortion. And the numbers suggest a good proportion are personally opposed to abortion but recognize that it should still be generally available. One man quoted in the Vox piece explained his nuanced views: “Abortion is killing a baby. But I’m not saying it’s always wrong.” Perhaps that’s why in Vox’s poll, close to 40 percent choose either “both” or “neither” instead of “pro-choice” or “anti-choice.”

chart of Americans views on how the abortion experience should beMost interestingly, the poll revealed a huge amount of agreement about what the abortion experience should be like for those who do get one. About 70 percent think abortion should be affordable, without added burdens, and that people shouldn’t have to travel more than 60 miles to get one. Nearly three-quarters want the experience to be comfortable, supportive, nonjudgmental, and without pressure. Almost 90 percent think it should be informed by accurate medical information.

In other words, the vast majority of Americans think the experience of getting an abortion should be pretty much the exact opposite of the way the anti-choice movement has been working hard to make it.

The poll also gives support to the idea that the abortion storytelling that’s been happening more and more in recent years may really help transform views. Nearly 75 percent of respondents were surprised to learn that 1 in 3 women have had an abortion by age 45. Those that had talked to someone who had had one were more supportive of abortion rights. (This relationship could go either way, of course, but other recent research suggests sharing abortion stories can change minds.) Even simply asking the survey questions in a way that highlighted the woman involved in the decision led to more pro-choice views.

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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