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Vast majority of Republicans support abortion exceptions for rape, incest and mother's health

A new survey shows broad bipartisan support for abortion exemptions, including in states that have restricted the procedure. 
An abortion-rights activist argues with an anti-abortion activist in front of the Supreme Court on June 25, 2022.
An abortion-rights activist argues with an anti-abortion activist in front of the Supreme Court on June 25.Alex Wong / Getty Images

A month before the midterm elections, most Americans say abortion is important to their vote. And while the two parties are deeply divided on the issue, a new survey shows broad bipartisan support for abortion rights in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s health is seriously endangered.

Eight in 10 American adults say abortion is important to their vote in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, including a 56% majority who say it is very important, according to a Penn Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies (PORES)/SurveyMonkey survey released Monday of nearly 22,000 American adults.

Ninety percent of Americans who identify as Democrats or leaning Democrat, 78 % of independents and 74 % of Republican and Republican-leaning Americans say abortion matters at the voting booth.

Even as Republican-led states have enacted abortion bans in more than a dozen states across the country since the court's decision in June, there is strong bipartisan support for exceptions, including among more than three-quarters of Republicans. 

Eighty-six percent of Americans of all parties think a pregnant woman should be able to legally have an abortion if she becomes pregnant because of rape or incest, the PORES/SurveyMonkey survey found. That includes 94 % of Democrats, 88 % of independents and 76 % of Republicans.

Nine in 10 Americans think a pregnant woman should be able to legally have an abortion if her health is seriously endangered by the pregnancy. An even larger majority of Republicans support that exception, with 86% agreeing that abortion should be legal in that circumstance, joining 95% of Democrats and 93% of independents.

This level of bipartisan support holds up even among respondents who live in states that have enacted restrictions on abortion. Aggregating the states where abortion is legal, 88 % of Americans think abortion should be legal in the case of rape or incest. Among the states where abortion is banned, restricted or legislation is pending, a similar 85 percent said abortion should be legal in the case of rape or incest.

Likewise, 92 % of those who live in states where abortion remains legal and 90 % of those who live in states restricting the procedure say abortion should be legal if the mother’s health is seriously endangered by the pregnancy.

Reflecting the survey’s findings, more Republican-led states that have instituted abortion bans since Roe was overturned have provided exceptions for maternal health than they have for victims of rape and incest. 

Two-thirds of Americans also said they think abortion regulations should be determined by public referendum rather than by elected officials or judges. That finding comes after Kansas voters in July overwhelmingly struck down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have removed abortion rights protections in the state.

The PORES/SurveyMonkey survey found that while a majority of Republicans (59%) believe that abortion regulation should be determined by direct public input, Democrats (73%) and independents (70%) are more likely to hold that opinion. That partisan split is consistent across the country, irrespective of whether a state has restricted abortion.

The Penn Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies/SurveyMonkey national poll was conducted from Sept. 14-Oct. 3, among 21,730 Americans. To help contextualize how much the results may vary, note that national popular vote polls in the 2020 general election had an average error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points on the margin regardless of their size, sampling or mode of data collection according to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) evaluation of 202 pre-election polls. The survey has an empirical error estimate, based on past analysis, of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. This number represents the best approximation of total survey error for this poll. All results are weighted so that the survey sample matches the 2016-20 American Community Survey according to age, race, gender and education. Analyses of subgroups of states were weighted according to population targets in those states. For full results and methodology, click here.