Women’s Uncertainty about Their Economic Opportunities after the Overturning of Roe v. Wade
This article was originally published in YouGovAmerica by Kaitlen Cassell
While abortion has long been a staple in political discourse, it has become particularly salient in light of the Supreme Court’s landmark 2022 decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that eliminated the constitutional right to abortion that had been in place since the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
The YouGov Social Change Monitor has been measuring attitudes towards abortion since the May 2022 leak of a draft of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs. Data from May 2022 to February 2023 show that U.S. adults’ attitudes towards abortion have remained largely stable over time, with an average of 65% of American adults believing that the government should not restrict women’s access to abortion. Preferences vary drastically by political party: 83% of Democrats say the government should not restrict abortion access, compared to 66% of Independents and just 39% of Republicans. While a distinctively partisan issue, abortion access has a disproportionate impact on women. Among U.S. adults, women are more likely than men to express pro-choice views: 69% of women say that the government should not restrict women’s access to abortion, compared to 61% of men.
The Social Change Monitor also asks about the potential economic effects of abortion. About half (52%) of American adults believe that women will have fewer economic opportunities if abortion is restricted. Party identification is again closely linked to how Americans answer this question: Three-quarters (75%) of Democrats say that women will have fewer economic opportunities if abortion is restricted, compared to 49% of Independents and just 26% of Republicans. Gender also is tied to responses to this question: Women are more likely than men to express concern about women’s economic opportunities if abortion is restricted (57% vs. 47%).
Unlike attitudes about the government’s role in regulating abortions, Americans’ attitudes about the economic implications of abortion have changed in response to major events in the ongoing debate over the past year. Three notable 2022 events stand out in the data: the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June, Senator Lindsey Graham’s September proposal of legislation banning abortions after 15 weeks nationwide, and November’s midterm elections. The first two events prompted peaks in agreement that women will have fewer economic opportunities if abortion is restricted: about 55% of U.S. adults said so. These peaks are followed by a drop of 8 percentage points following the midterm elections, when 47% of the population said that women will have fewer economic opportunities with abortion restrictions rolling into place post-decision.
Women’s attitudes about the economic implications of abortion are especially responsive to policy changes compared to men, a trend that holds across age groups. The trendline for women reveals a more pronounced spike following the Supreme Court decision on Dobbs compared to all U.S. adults as a whole – a 10-percentage-point increase from before the decision to after — while men’s attitudes remained largely unchanged. The difference between genders following this event is noteworthy: 63% of women say that women will have fewer economic opportunities compared to 47% of men (a 16-percentage-point difference, compared to the average difference across all waves of 10 percentage points). Comparing gender differences within generations, the data reveal a similar pattern of women expressing greater concern than men in response to pivotal moments in the abortion debate: It’s true across generations, with more pronounced reactions from Gen Z and Millennial women.