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Americans split on Texas heartbeat abortion law: poll

Abortion
Demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court is due to issue its first major abortion ruling since 2007 against a backdrop of unremitting divisions among Americans on the issue and a decades-long decline in the rate at which women terminate pregnancies in Washington, U.S. June 27, 2016. |

About a week after a Texas pro-life law went into effect, a new poll reveals that Americans are split in their opinions about the measure, reflecting the partisan divides that have come to define American politics.

A poll released by Rasmussen Reports Tuesday found that a plurality of likely voters (46%) approve of the Texas Heartbeat Act, which went into effect last Wednesday. Forty-three percent of respondents disapprove of the law while 11% told the pollster they were not sure what they thought of the law.

Broken down by partisan affiliation, 70% of Republicans support the Texas law. In comparison, approval of the law was measured at just 23% among Democrats and 44% among voters not affiliated with either major political party. Demographic groups most supportive of the law included men (51%), racial minorities other than black voters (54%) and those between the ages of 40 and 64. 

Meanwhile, the Texas law registered the lowest approval ratings from women (41%), black voters (36%), white voters (45%), voters with incomes above $200,000 a year and those with graduate degrees.

Signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, Senate Bill 8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks gestation. The law also allows private citizens to sue individuals who perform abortions and those who help women obtain illegal abortions. 

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the law to go into effect, rejecting pleas by abortion providers to block it. Litigation against the law is expected to continue in the lower courts.

The Rasmussen poll also asked respondents if they thought that “abortion laws should be determined by state governments or by the federal government.” Forty-six percent of likely voters believe that state governments should determine abortion laws, 34% want abortion laws determined at the federal level and the remaining 20% are not sure.

Among Republicans, support for deciding abortion laws at the state level stands at 64%. Much lower percentages of Democrats (31%) and unaffiliated voters (44%) believe that the responsibility for determining abortion laws should lie with the states.

While a plurality of likely voters support SB 8, 46% of respondents expressed support for President Joe Biden’s vow to “launch a whole-of-government effort … to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions.” Democrats demonstrated the highest level of support for the president’s push to combat the abortion law (74%) while 19% of Republicans and 44% of unaffiliated voters backed Biden’s effort. 

The Rasmussen poll surveyed 1,000 likely voters between Sept. 5-6 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points. 

Over time, public opinion polling has painted conflicting pictures about Americans’ views on abortion. According to a survey from Pew Research Center, 59% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 39% want the killing of preborn babies to be illegal in all or most cases. 

Data collected by Pew between 1995 and 2021 found that support for abortion in all or most cases reached a high of 61% in 2019, but has since dwindled back down a little bit. Support for abortion in all or most cases reached a low of 47% in 2009 as opposition to abortion in all or most cases reached a high of 44%. 

Polling conducted by Gallup has indicated momentum for the pro-life movement in recent years. While most Americans (56%) identified as pro-choice in 1995, that majority was reduced to a plurality by 2017. 

In 2019, for the first time since Gallup began asking voters whether they identified as pro-life or pro-choice, more Americans identified as pro-life (49%) than pro-choice (48%). By 2021, the share of Americans who identified as pro-choice had increased to 49% while 48% identified as pro-life. 

Abortion has been legal in all 50 U.S. states since the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which has prevented states from restricting abortions before the point of viability. While the Supreme Court did not explicitly rule on the constitutionality of SB 8, the most restrictive abortion law allowed to take effect in the country, it has announced that it will issue a ruling on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. 

A ruling in favor of the state of Mississippi, which is asking the justices to uphold the law, would significantly weaken the precedent set by Roe v. Wade. Pro-life activists believe that such a decision would pave the way for more states to follow Mississippi’s lead and enable the Supreme Court to “hear other cases” challenging other pro-life legislation passed at the state level. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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