(KXAN) — As the U.S. marks the 48th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, the debate over the legality and morality of abortion goes on. But the polarizing ruling has gained significant support among one surprising group: Catholics.
The most recent survey of U.S. Catholics performed by Pew Research Center found 56% of U.S. Catholics believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Additionally, 68% said Roe should not be overturned — with which 70% of U.S. adults also agree.
While most Catholics generally approved of abortion rights overall, a large majority also said there should be restrictions.
Thirty-five percent of Catholics polled said abortion should be legal in most cases, while 21% said it should be legal in all cases. Meanwhile, 28% of Catholics said abortion should be illegal in most cases and 14% believe it should be illegal in all cases.
Interestingly, the survey also found Catholics who attend services more often are more likely to oppose abortion rights in some way.
U.S. Catholics’ favorability of abortion rights tended to fall based on political affiliation. In the survey, Catholics identifying as Republican (63%) believed abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while 77% of Democratic Catholics said the opposite.
This is pretty much in line with Americans overall, Pew reports.
The 2020 Catholic Vote
Despite notions that Catholic voters care most about stopping Roe, Pew’s research doesn’t back this up.
Thirty-nine percent of Catholics polled said abortion was a “very important” issue in deciding who they would vote for in the 2020 Presidential Election — but this was no higher than non-Catholic Americans. (This excludes white evangelicals, 61% of whom said abortion was “crucial” to their vote).
Overall, abortion ranked lower in importance for Catholic voters than health care, COVID-19 pandemic response and the economy.
Recently inaugurated President Joe Biden is only the second Catholic to serve as commander in chief. Biden, who favors protecting and the strengthening of Roe, won 49% of the Catholic vote, while Republican incumbent former President Donald Trump won 50% of Catholics. A relatively even split, according to Associated Press.
The survey found the majority of U.S. Catholics were able to put aside their own beliefs when it came to abortion.
While 57% of U.S. Catholics said abortion is “morally wrong,” nearly the same amount, 56% also said it should be legal.
Roe v. Wade 101
In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled by a 7-2 decision that abortion was protected under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, striking down a Texas law banning abortions unless a mother’s life was endangered.
While the decision allowed abortions through the entirety of a pregnancy, states were given the right to decide whether to allow the procedure during second and third trimesters. States’ abilities to put parameters on abortion has recently resulted in various ways of more conservative states limiting access or binding providers.
Such legal restrictions include:
- An Alabama law stating doctors who performed abortions could face up to 99 years in prison
- A Georgia law banning abortion once a heartbeat is detected — before many women even know they’re pregnant
- Several state laws cutting timelines of when abortions can be performed
- A Louisiana law requiring providers to get certain certifications from hospitals within 30 miles of their location — which reportedly would have left the state with one provider
The new Biden administration has several plans to uphold rights granted under Roe — in addition to strengthening them from future threats. “Codifying” the law means it would make it harder for states to place harsh restrictions around abortion, which many argue are so stringent they virtually make abortion illegal anyway.
“Nearly half a century later, abortion is a right in name only for millions of people across the country,” said Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson, according to The Hill. “…Without access to abortion, this right is meaningless. Now is the time for President Biden and our elected officials in states across the country to take necessary and immediate action to ensure that everyone, no matter their race, income, or ZIP code, has access to safe and legal abortion.”
Another poll from Pew Research found the majority of Americans expect abortion will remain legal at least until 2050.