As abortion restrictions intensify across the U.S., Americans are more likely to say it should be easier to obtain an abortion than they were in 2019, a recent Pew Research Center survey reveals. And Black Americans are among the most likely to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, states where bans have been implemented are largely concentrated in the South, where over half of the country’s Black population resides.
“For Black people, it is understanding it as a health care issue and as a right to manage our own bodies,” said Tina Sacks, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, whose research focuses on health inequities and Black women’s health.
According to the Pew survey, 73% of Black people say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. The percentage of Black Americans who support abortion access is the same as Asian Americans. Around 60% of white adults and Hispanic adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Some states have moved to ban abortion after six weeks, including Florida, Texas, and Louisiana.
Overall public support for access remains largely unchanged, but as restrictions on abortion access have increased, so too has the percentage of adults in those impacted areas who say the procedure is hard to obtain locally, the data shows. More than 70% say it would be difficult to get an abortion, up from the roughly 50% who said this in 2019. The number of residents in those states who say access should be easier has also risen.
This high level of support among Black folks around access to abortion, said Sacks, may emerge from the idea of Black feminism, and the Black women who started the reproductive rights movement. It is a movement about our own ability to manage our bodies, said Sacks, who credits Black women for making access to reproductive health care a social justice issue.
“When it comes to access to health care and deciding when and where to have a child, this is something that has always been fraught for Black women,” she said.
In the 1800s, Marion Sims — once known as the “father of modern gynecology” — experimented on Black enslaved women without anesthesia to develop tools used today in women’s health care. Black women often served as the caretakers of all children in the antebellum South and experienced frequent sexual violence, Sacks said.
“This runs deep through the history of Black women in the United States,” she said.
In the states where access remains legal, little has changed in terms of support and opinions on how difficult care is to get, according to the survey. But overall, just over 50% of Americans across the country say it would be very easy or somewhat easy to get an abortion where they live, which is down from 65% in 2019. And the share of adults who say it would be very or somewhat difficult to get an abortion near them has increased.
Attitudes on abortion access also vary by age. More than 70% of adults ages 18 to 29 say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, the Pew data shows. That’s compared to 62% of those 30 to 49 and 57% of those 50 and older. The differences by gender are smaller. About two-thirds of women say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to about 60% of men.
The survey also affirmed the deep partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans. Democratic-leaning respondents were twice as likely to support access to abortion care.
The survey, published last week, was conducted in March and April of this year, with a nationally representative sample of nearly 5,100 adults.