Where the country is on abortion

In five charts we examine the data on abortion in the U.S. and around the world.

The author(s)

  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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Exactly one week ago, the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, making abortion no longer a constitutional right. The court left it up to the states to set their own laws. In the preceding seven days, we’ve seen a slew of abortion bans and heavy restrictions go into place across large swaths of the country. Even in places where abortion is legal, it may become more difficult to access a legal abortion as existing clinics become strained.

These are the political moves and ripple effects of people in power. What do most Americans think about abortion, and what was the state of abortion like before Roe’s overturn?

Below, in five charts, we examine the data on abortion in the U.S. and around the world.

  1. Legal abortions become less common. After abortion became a constitutional right, the number of legal abortions rose significantly. But since the late ’90s, the number of legal abortions has declined dramatically. Some experts attribute this to the fact that the pregnancy and birth rate has dropped. This is the data context.number of legal abortions


  2. Where abortion is illegal. Abortion is illegal or likely will be in about half of the states across the country. We have talked many times before about the division that exists between red and blue America. Now, that division brings legal, medical, and lifelong consequences for much of the country. Take a closer look at the data. Looks like the political map—red states, blues states, and swing states.States where abortion is illegal


  3. Political ripple effects? In polling fielded before the official overturn of Roe, the political stakes seemed relatively predictable. Democrats back their tribe, and Republicans do the same for theirs. Right now, independents slightly favor Republicans over Democrats in the midterms. How the official overturn of Roe will impact the election remains to be seen.Political ripple effects


  4. In the middle. While most Americans believe abortion should be legal, much of the country exists somewhere in the middle of the abortion debate, with few falling into the more extreme ends of the conversation. Other polling shows how different conditions affect abortion support, though notably, a majority of the country supports abortion regardless of the conditions tested. This isn’t a black-white issue. There are many shades of grey lost to our tribal reductionism.Abortion public opinion


  5. Where the world stands on abortion. Taking an international perspective, the U.S. holds relatively conservative views on abortion than other parts of the world, like Scandinavia or Western Europe, where support can reach a supermajority status. The United States falls more in line with places like Japan or Brazil. Will these numbers change as the legal status of abortion in the U.S. becomes an even bigger political battleground? We will see.Abortion around the world

For most people, abortion is a complicated topic. Practically, very few people support the extremes of the abortion debate.

But, now, many of these laws don’t reflect this nuance. It is unclear how that influences the midterms. Though, on a bigger scale, this decision will alter the lives of millions of people.

The author(s)

  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs