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Most Americans support abortion for pregnancy-related emergencies

Most Americans also say women should be allowed to travel for medical care – including an abortion, a new KFF poll finds.
Gracey Zhang for NPR
Most Americans also say women should be allowed to travel for medical care – including an abortion, a new KFF poll finds.

In the almost two years since Roe v. Wade was overturned, the unintended consequences of abortion bans have become clearer.

NPR has reported on women who were denied care for miscarriages and high-risk pregnancies, including Jaci Statton of Oklahoma, who was told she had to wait in a hospital parking lot until her non-viable pregnancy became life threatening.

Statton, who is in her 20s, says hospital staff told her, "We cannot touch you unless you are crashing in front of us or your blood pressure goes so high that you are fixing to have a heart attack."

Stories like this have increased awareness of how abortion bans are impacting health care during pregnancy. That may be reflected in the results of a new poll from the health research organization KFF, which finds there is a broad consensus – 86% of Americans – that women in such pregnancy-related emergencies should have access to abortion procedures.

This support crosses party lines – including nearly 8 in 10 Republicans, says KFF pollster Ashley Kirzinger.

"While they may be anti-abortion in most cases, they don't want to limit access to basic medical care for these women who are really experiencing kind of the worst-case scenarios," she says.

There is also strong support across party lines for allowing women to travel for medical care – including getting an abortion. And the poll finds most people don't want doctors who perform abortions – or women who have them – to face criminal charges.

"We see 8 in 10 Democrats, two-thirds of Independents and about half of Republicans who want to protect doctors who perform abortions from facing either fines or prison time," Kirzinger says.

This includes protecting doctors who prescribe abortion pills — 62% of respondents say health care providers should not be prosecuted for mailing abortion pills to patients who live in states where abortion is banned.

When it comes to the 2024 election, the poll found that abortion is not the top issue for most voters, although it does resonate strongly with certain groups.

Only 12% of all voters say it's the most important issue. But women of reproductive age (18 to 49), Black women and women who live in states with abortion bans were more likely to rank abortion as the most important issue influencing their vote this November.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Maria Godoy is a senior science and health editor and correspondent with NPR News. Her reporting can be heard across NPR's news shows and podcasts. She is also one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.