Americans divided as Supreme Court weighs abortion pill access, Reuters/Ipsos poll finds

By Thomson Reuters May 17, 2024 | 5:03 AM

By Gabriella Borter and Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Americans are divided on whether women should have to see a doctor in person before receiving abortion pills, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found, as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether to reimpose that restriction on medication abortion.

But broad bipartisan majorities opposed the idea of allowing states with abortion bans in place to block access to the procedure in certain emergency cases when it is needed to protect the mother’s health, at issue in another case before the court.

The findings come as the court is preparing to rule on its highest-profile abortion cases since 2022, when the justices overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established the national right to abortion.

Some 50% of respondents in the May 7-14 survey said they supported an in-person doctor visit requirement for abortion medication, while 33% said they opposed that rule. Seventeen percent said they were unsure.

Around 67% of Republican respondents and 37% of Democrats said they were in favor of the in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone.

The court, with a 6-3 conservative majority, is expected to rule by late June in a case challenging the accessibility of mifepristone, a drug that is half of a two-part medication regimen to induce abortion in early pregnancies.

The case before the court, which was brought by anti-abortion groups and doctors, challenges the Food and Drug Administration allowing for medication abortions up to 10 weeks of pregnancy instead of seven, and for mail delivery of the drug without a patient first seeing a clinician in-person. During March arguments, the justices appeared skeptical that the groups that brought the case had the needed legal standing to pursue it.

While respondents were divided on whether to tighten abortion pill regulations, broad majorities opposed the idea behind Idaho’s challenge to a federal law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, that requires states to allow patients to access abortion in emergency cases.

Some 77% of respondents, including 86% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans, said they supported requiring states with strict abortion bans to permit abortion if necessary to protect the health of a pregnant patient facing a medical emergency. The Court’s decision in that case is also expected by late June.

Majorities of both parties also opposed the idea of state governments tracking pregnancies to allow them to take action if the pregnancies are terminated in violation of state law. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump recently told Time magazine he would not stop states from monitoring pregnancies.

Since the court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe, 16 states have banned abortion in all or most cases and medication abortion has become the most common method of ending pregnancies, now accounting for more than 60% of U.S. abortions.

Overall, the share of Americans who support abortion rights has grown over the last decade. Some 57% of respondents in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, up from 46% in Reuters/Ipsos polls conducted in 2014. Some 31% of respondents in the latest poll said it should be illegal in most or all cases, down from 43% in 2014 polls. About one in 10 respondents consistently say they aren’t sure.

The latest poll gathered responses from 3,934 U.S. adults nationwide in an online survey conducted May 7-14. It had a margin of error of about 2 percentage points for all respondents and about 3 points for Republicans and Democrats.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Jason Lange; Editing by Scott Malone and Deepa Babington)