A cacophony of anti-abortion rhetoric has drowned out the voice of public opinion, but the tide is beginning to turn. A growing body of polling indicates that the average American consumer is solidly in favor of abortion rights. That provides business leaders with a supportive environment in which to advocate for the ability of women, girls and other pregnancy-capable people to manage their pregnancies under the guidance of medical science, not religion-based extremism.
Suffolk University conducted the latest public survey on abortion issues earlier this month as part of an ongoing partnership with the USA Today news organization.
The poll was open between June 5 and June 9, almost one year to the week since the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision on the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health case on June 24, 2022. That decision was rendered by the court’s supermajority of six conservative, Republican-appointed justices, who ignored evidence to overturn the federal abortion protections of the 1973 Roe v. Wade case.
The Dobbs decision empowered legislators in Republican-dominated states to restrict abortion access. Within six months following the decision, 24 state legislatures followed through and imposed new limits, or had new limits under consideration.
Those restrictions necessarily entail a significant new regime of government-sanctioned tracking and intrusion, even to the extent of restricting travel to other states where abortion rights are still protected. That spreads the impact to pregnancy-capable residents of all 50 states, who now need to assess their risks while traveling in an anti-abortion state.
Also contributing to the 50-state impact is a decision rendered by another conservative Republican appointee, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas. On April 7 of this year, Kacsmaryk overturned 23 years of rulings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the safety of mifepristone, a drug commonly used to induce an abortion early in a pregnancy. The decision rippled out from abortion-banning states to impact pharmacy customers in other states as well.
The public has also been exposed to a growing number of horrific stories, as more women come forward with their personal experiences of being denied safe, appropriate medical care to terminate a pregnancy.
In this context, the results of the new USA Today/Suffolk University poll indicate that the public is firmly on the side of human rights and civil rights, along with access to medical care.
The respondents came out against the Dobbs decision by 58 percent in favor compared to 30 percent opposed, a margin of almost 2 to 1. That finding is consistent with other polling on Dobbs, including a Gallup survey taken in May of this year.
The USA Today/Suffolk survey also measured how opinions on abortion changed following the Dobbs ruling. The response is significant for business leaders seeking common ground, because it indicates a positive shift toward abortion rights rather than a continuation of existing opinion.
“By almost 4-1 [23 percent to 6 percent], those whose views on abortion have changed in the past year said they have become more supportive of legal abortion, not less supportive,” the USA Today reporting team observed in an article published on June 18. “That includes more women than men, more Democrats than Republicans, and more younger voters than seniors.”
“The shift was pronounced among Black respondents,” they added. “Almost a third, 32 percent, said they had become more supportive of abortion access in the past year.”
The political differences on display in the poll remain a concern for businesses that are trying to navigate consumer relations in a hyper-partisan environment. However, the poll also detected a strong current of non-partisan support for abortion rights, especially among women. In the poll, women who identify as politically Independent slightly outperformed the 4-1 average, with 28 percent saying they became more supportive of abortion rights after Dobbs, compared to 5 percent who did not.
In another indication that the national mood is more non-partisan and temperate than anti-abortion activists and their allies on the federal bench may presume, the poll displayed a resounding thumbs-down for any federal law banning abortion nationwide. Eighty percent of respondents oppose a federal ban, compared to only 14 percent who'd support one. Among those opposed were 65 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Independents.
Despite the strong showing of non-partisan support for abortion rights, public opinion can’t undo what has already been done. Until Congress acts to fill the gaping hole carved out by the Dobbs decision, businesses must cope with the fallout from new state anti-abortion legislation for years to come.
That fallout includes the impact on workforce recruitment, especially in high-demand fields. Last August, for example, CNBC took stock of the ripple effect on the workforce in anti-abortion states. “Roughly 1 in 3 job-seekers say they won’t apply to a job in a state with an abortion ban, according to an August ResumeBuilder survey of 1,000 people,” CNBC reported. “And 1 in 4 job-seekers currently living in a restrictive state is applying to jobs only where abortion is legal.”
Anti-abortion legislation is also impacting college choice, indicating that businesses in anti-abortion states may face a brain drain that lasts for years.
The overall impact on health care in anti-abortion states is sending up red flags as well. In addition to doctors who are retiring or relocating on account of anti-abortion laws, a recent medical school survey indicates it will be difficult for anti-abortion states to recruit new doctors, leading to gaps in care that affect all residents, whether they're pregnancy-capable or not.
If business leaders are hoping the whole issue will fade away, that is highly unlikely. Women who have been impacted by anti-abortion laws have begun taking their horror stories to court, virtually guaranteeing that media attention will increase as the 2024 election cycle draws closer.
Further raising the media profile is the Joe Biden administration, which is hosting a series of events in recognition of the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision on June 24. Democrats in Congress are supporting the White House by pressing for new legislation to restore abortion rights nationwide.
Public opinion is firmly on the side of abortion rights, regardless of partisan politics. Business leaders should throw out the “deeply held beliefs” script and prepare to have a clear, strong, fact-based, science-oriented answer ready when customers, clients and employees ask for their stand on abortion.
Image credit: Gayatri Malhotra/Unsplash
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.
We're compiling all data!