Most voters are unaware of it, but abortion rights in NC and across the country could be one election away from falling. Abortion Rights In Peril
Most voters are unaware of it, but abortion rights in NC and across the country could be one election away from falling.

While voters broadly disapprove of the government interfering with a person’s reproductive choices, 73% have heard little or nothing at all about a case before the Supreme Court in which the conservative-controlled court could overturn Roe v. Wade. 

This time next year, abortion could be illegal in much of the United States, and depending on how the 2022 elections go, in North Carolina—even as new poll results show it would be deeply unpopular. 

Two in three likely voters in the US—including nearly half of Republicans—believe the government “should not interfere in reproductive rights” and that families and individuals should have control over their reproductive decisions, according to a new Courier Newsroom/Data for Progress poll. Conversely, only 28% of respondents believe the government should be able to make decisions about reproductive rights. [Note: Courier Newsroom is the parent company of Cardinal & Pine.]

And yet, sometime in the next few months, the US Supreme Court will rule on a 2018 Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks, allowing them only in case of medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities. If the Court upholds the law, which has been blocked by lower courts, it would effectively contradict its own ruling in Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that banned states from prohibiting abortions before fetal viability, which occurs around 23 to 24 weeks. 

In oral arguments in December, the 6-3 conservative court appeared ready to affirm the Mississippi law, with at least four right-wing justices indicating they might overrule Roe altogether and allow states to once again ban all abortions. 

If Roe were struck down, abortion would almost certainly become illegal in more than 20 states that have pre-Roe bans, “trigger laws,” or other abortion bans on the books that would go into effect. 

North Carolina is not one of those states and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has been a staunch defender of abortion rights. But should Republicans win a supermajority in the state legislature in November’s elections, they could ban abortion outright and override Cooper’s veto power, leaving millions of women in North Carolina without access to critical reproductive healthcare.  

Most Voters Are Unaware of the Impending Threat to Roe v. Wade

While voters disapprove of the government interfering with a person’s reproductive choices, the survey of 1,193 likely voters also found that most Americans remain broadly unaware that a woman’s constitutional right to abortion is at risk of being taken away by Republicans. 

Seventy-three percent of likely voters have heard little or nothing at all about the case before the Supreme Court, according to the poll. 

When they do hear about it though, they oppose it. Fifty-one percent of voters said they oppose the Court overturning or weakening Roe, while only 39% said they support such an action. 

The poll also found that 61% of likely voters, including six in 10 independents and nearly half of Republicans, would be very or somewhat concerned about the Court taking away access to safe and legal abortion.

Defending Abortion Rights Is Popular and Could Be a Political Winner

Gov. Roy Cooper has been a defender of reproductive rights, vetoing bills that sought to restrict abortion access in the state. 

Such a stance appears to be popular, as 54% of respondents to the poll said they would be more likely to vote for a political candidate who was upfront and outspoken about defending reproductive rights and protecting access to abortion. Only 23% of likely voters said they’d be less likely to vote for such a candidate, while another 23% said it wouldn’t affect their choice.

A 2020 survey from NC-based Public Policy Polling also found that 74% of the state’s voters believe that abortion should be legal, and that the government should not prevent a woman from making that decision for herself.

However, Republicans in the state legislature have attempted multiple times to curtail abortion rights in the state, introducing multiple bills over the past few years in an attempt to restrict access. Those efforts have failed, due to Cooper’s veto power, but things could look a whole lot different in 2023. If Republicans win a supermajority in the state House and Senate, they could enact whatever sort of bans they want. 

“Many folks are viewing North Carolina as a state that won’t ban abortion outright,” Molly Rivera, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, told NC Policy Watch in December. “The thing is, that’s just not true. A lot of people have become accustomed to having Roy Cooper veto every anti-abortion bill that comes across his desk. The only reason it’s upheld is the current makeup of the General Assembly. Those numbers are already so close. The Democrats in the General Assembly are able to uphold a veto by a very slim margin. It will only take a couple of seats for this to turn.”  

Survey Methodology: From March 30 to April 2, 2022, Data for Progress conducted a survey of 1,193 likely voters nationally using web panel respondents. The sample was weighted to be representative of likely voters by age, gender, education, race, and voting history. The survey was conducted in English. The margin of error is ±3 percentage points.