A version of this story was originally published on May 28, 2019. It has been updated by Motherly editors.
It’s a topic that can be divisive, but we can’t ignore that abortion is being discussed all over America right now—given the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. For mothers especially, abortion is something that many have strong feelings about.
According to Motherly’s State of Motherhood 2022 survey results, 60% of millennial and Gen Z mothers and 58% of Gen X mothers report personally supporting the reproductive rights movement. Only 16% of millennial and Gen Z mothers say they personally support the anti-abortion movement, while just 12% of Gen X mothers say they do.
There has to be room for different viewpoints in this national discussion, but we also have to make room for the facts.
Here are 10 facts you need to know about abortion in America:
1. Abortion has been legal in the United States since the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, but the current makeup of the Supreme Court paved the way for Roe v. Wade to be overturned this year. Now, abortion rights will be left up to the states. Even before Roe was overturned, several states had successfully made most abortions illegal within their borders. The abortion debate had never really ceased.
At last count, 26 states have “trigger bans” in place that are likely to take effect now that Roe is overturned.
2. As of June 1, 2022, 42 provisions have already been enacted in state legislature challenging abortion rights, according to Guttmacher Institute. Provisions range from prohibiting abortion access via telemedicine to banning abortion if the fetus has a genetic abnormality, to outright banning all or most abortion procedures—along with numerous others.
3. Abortions are much less common than they used to be, but after a 30-year decline, rates are starting to rise. The recent rise could be interpreted as a result of some states expanding Medicaid coverage of abortion care. In addition, local and national abortion funds increased their capacity to help more people pay for abortions, offsetting some of the state restrictions limiting abortion access.
4. According to the CDC, 91% of abortions in America happen at or before 13 weeks gestation, but some lawmakers are focused on the rare abortions that happen later than that. Currently, three states (Arizona, Florida and Kentucky) have enacted laws banning abortions 12 weeks after the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP). Twenty-one similar bills have been introduced across the country, but have not yet passed.
5. Roe v. Wade did not specify which gestational week abortion can be performed until. It only protected the right to abortion prior to viability. But as medical technology advances, potential viability gets earlier and earlier in gestation. Compared to many countries in the European Union, Roe enabled women to access an abortion further along in gestation. In the EU, most countries only allow abortion up to 12 weeks. The exceptions are Sweden, which allows it until 18 weeks, the Netherlands, which set the limit at 22 weeks, and the United Kingdom, where abortions are available until 24 weeks gestation.
6. 49% of people seeking abortions are living below the Federal Poverty Line. Women getting abortions today are twice as likely to be poor than women seeking abortions in the 1990s. That’s because there are more women living below the poverty line—and also because women with more economic means have better access to reproductive resources, like effective contraception.
7. Recent polls suggest that both Republican and Democratic voters believe abortion issues will impact how they vote in the midterm elections in 2022. Democrats are more likely to say they’ll only vote for a candidate that shares their abortion views (37%) versus Republicans (24%).
8. The split between pro-choice and pro-life is widening. According to the Gallup poll, 17% of registered voters identify as pro-choice and say they’ll only vote for a candidate who shares their abortion views. That compares with 10% of voters who identify as pro-life and look for policy alignment. In 2020, the two sides were more evenly matched on this measure (10% and 13%, respectively).
9. Most of the people who have abortions in America (59%) have already given birth to a child. The majority of women who are aborting pregnancies are already mothers. One in four American women will have an abortion by age 45.
10. There are people on both sides of this debate who genuinely believe that either banning or supporting access to abortion is in the best interest of women and children. This is an issue that can cause emotions and tempers to flare. In times like these, it’s easy to see people with viewpoints different from our own as the enemy, but if we want the national discussion on abortion to be productive instead of polarizing, we need to have empathy for those on either side.
Motherly designed and administered this survey through Motherly’s subscribers list, social media and partner channels, resulting in more than 17,000 responses creating a clean, unweighted base of 10,001 responses. This report focuses on the Gen X cohort of 1197 respondents, millennial cohort of 8,558 respondents, and a Gen Z cohort of 246 respondents. Edge Research weighted the data to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data.