Most Americans Don't Really Know Roe

News stories and online chatter today will mark the 36th anniversary of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings -- Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton. In tandem, Roe and Doe struck down every state abortion law, taking the issue out of the hands of the people (via state elected legislatures) and placing it at the feet of appointed Supreme Court justices.

Many Americans will see or hear the reports and nod their head in acknowledgment: They’ve heard of Roe (if not Doe). They know the ruling made abortion a constitutional right but that’s about the extent of their knowledge.

That unawareness works in the favor of groups, like Planned Parenthood, which continue to claim that the public supports Roe, and therefore it should be retained by the Supreme Court.

We don’t buy it.

In fact, it appears that most Americans are woefully ignorant of what Roe (and Doe) allows and how drastically it changed abortion law in the U.S. Simply put, what Roe (and Doe) allows does not line up with what Americans think abortion law should be.

As an example, a national poll conducted in May 2007 by Ayres, McHenry & Associates first asked participants if they would like the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. Fifty-five percent said no, 34% said yes. Then, the poll asked for what reasons abortion should be legal in the participant’s state, with examples ranging from 75% support when the life of the mother is threatened to 32% support when the woman is not married. The further reasons moved away from the “life of the mother” exemption and toward “unmarried,” the more opposition to abortion grew. Finally, pollsters informed participants that if Roe were overturned, states could pass laws that permit abortion for some reasons and bar it for others — reasons listed in the previous question.

After this brief education on the impact of Roe, participants were again asked whether Roe should be overturned. Forty-eight percent said no, 44% yes -- a 16-point swing in the direction of favoring the reversal of Roe.

(Read the poll here.)

The more people know about Roe’s radical reshaping of abortion policy and the freedoms it removed from American citizens to decide such policy, the more they support overturning it.

Do you know Roe?

Test your knowledge by taking an on-line quiz designed to gauge the public’s awareness of Roe, asking the question, “Does America know Roe?"

We think you’ll be surprised by the results.

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