Keep abortion legal
Photo: Debra Sweet

A new PRRI poll on a range of reproductive rights and women’s health issues shows stark generational divisions.

On questions of personal beliefs about abortion, access to abortion and availability of abortion services, young and older Americans are deeply divided.

A look at the PRRI “Widening Generational Divides on Abortion and Reproductive Rights” survey:

  • About 44 percent of young Americans say abortion goes against their personal beliefs, compared to 60 percent of Americans over 65. 
  • Nearly two-thirds of young people, compared to 51 percent of seniors, agree that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
  • Nearly seven in 10 young people, compared to 46 percent of seniors, agree that at least some health care professionals in their community should provide legal abortions. 
  • A majority of young adults, compared to 42 percent of seniors, say abortion services should be covered by most health care plans.

“The relative stability of attitudes in the general public toward the legality and availability of abortion over the past few years has masked a growing polarization of opinion between younger and older Americans,” said PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “As this younger generation continues to flex its political muscles — as we saw in the response to the Parkland shooting — they could also reshape the national conversation on women’s health issues.”

Younger and older Americans also have different perceptions of how difficult it is to access abortion services in their communities. 

Among Americans overall, 38 percent say obtaining an abortion in their community is somewhat or very difficult, compared to 46 percent who say it is not too difficult or not at all difficult. 

Nearly half of young Americans, compared to 35 percent of seniors, say abortions are somewhat or very difficult to obtain in their communities.

Trump undermining women’s health

The PRRI poll was released just a week before Planned Parenthood’s lobby day, when more than 600 staff, patients and supporters came together to sound an alarm about the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine essential health services for women.

At a news conference April 25, Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens joined U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, and Gene Green, D-Texas, to talk about the ways the GOP-controlled Congress and the Trump-Pence administration rolled back access to affordable birth control, cut evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs and tried to block patients from accessing Planned Parenthood health centers.

Moore, speaking outside the Capitol, said, “Who’d have thought it, that we’d still be out here protesting and trying to protect women’s rights to control their own bodies?” 

The lawmaker said the U.S. Supreme Court “is on our side,” as well as scientific and economic arguments, yet the Trump-Pence administration and Republicans in Congress and state legislatures continue to work to chip away at women’s access to care.

“This is a nationwide problem but it is also very, very local,” Moore said. “Because of the Trump administration’s willingness to provide waivers, states like my own state of Wisconsin are taking it upon themselves to continue to advance anti-choice initiatives.”

Tanya Atkinson, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, also spoke at the news conference. Moore introduced her as a soldier and a good friend.

Atkinson said Gov. Scott Walker and “other extreme politicians in Wisconsin have been pushing policy after policy to take away our basic rights and care. In Wisconsin, we’ve seen an unprecedented attack on women’s health.”

As a result, there are fewer clinics and options for the 70 percent of young people who, according to the PRRI survey, believe that at least some health care professionals in their community should provide legal abortions.

 

PRRI — the Public Religion Research Institute — is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture and public policy.

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