Abortion Views and Gender

Below is a list of evidence (research, polls, and articles) demonstrating that views on abortion don’t divide along gender lines and that there is strong pro-life/anti-abortion sentiment among a significant portion of American women. For decades, findings have repeatedly suggested women are as likely as men to oppose abortion.

Public Opinion Quarterly (2014)

Gender and Abortion Attitudes: Religiosity as a Suppressor Variable

This research found:

Because pregnancy, childbirth, child-rearing, and therefore abortion are presumably much more salient experiences for women than for men, women would be expected from an interest-group perspective to be more likely than men to favor legal abortion. However, the research on abortion attitudes fails to support this expectation, finding instead that women are no more likely than men to favor legal abortion. Recent reviews underscore this null result, noting that a “large literature on attitudes toward abortion shows that gender is not a predictor of them” and that “the bulk of the literature appears skeptical about gender differences.” A 2013 NORC report similarly observed that “there is little difference between men and women in their attitudes toward abortions,” while a 2010 Gallup report noted that “men and women have consistently held similar views about the extent to which abortion should be legal.”

Gender and Abortion Attitudes: Religiosity as a Suppressor Variable,” Steven Barkan, Public Opinion Quarterly, Volume 78, Issue 4, Winter 2014, Pages 940-950

Politico poll (2016)

The 2016 Election: Clinton vs. Trump Voters on American Health Care

This polling found women (63%) were significantly more likely than men (52%) to support federal funding of Planned Parenthood when the funding can’t be used for abortion. However, majorities of both women and men opposing allowing Medicaid funds to be used to pay for abortions, with no statistically significant difference between the two genders. In detail:

Poll question: “In the election, funding of Planned Parenthood has been an issue. Planned Parenthood is an organization that provides family planning and preventative health services. In addition, it provides some abortion services. Currently the federal government provides funding assistance for some of Planned Parenthood’s health services, but not for abortions. Do you support or oppose ending ALL federal funding to Planned Parenthood because they provide some abortion services?” 63% of women and 52% of men opposed ending federal funding. See PDF pages 16-17.

Poll question: “Medicaid is the largest government program that pays for health care for low-income people. Currently the federal government prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions under Medicaid. Do you favor or oppose changing this policy in order to allow Medicaid funds to be used to pay for abortions?” The result:

Overall, only 36% of likely voters favor allowing Medicaid funding to be used for abortion services, while a majority (58%) oppose. … Women are slightly more supportive than men of abortion coverage under Medicaid, but the differences are statistically insignificant.

“The 2016 Election: Clinton vs. Trump Voters on American Health Care,” Politico, October 2016

Gallup poll (2018)

Men, Women Generally Hold Similar Abortion Attitudes

Gallup’s 2010 comprehensive analysis of gender differences in views of abortion concluded, “Over the past three decades, men and women have consistently held similar views about the extent to which abortion should be legal.” The current update, adding data for the years 2010-2018, shows a continuation of the same general pattern.

“Men, Women Generally Hold Similar Abortion Attitudes,” Frank Newport, Gallup, June 14, 2018

The report goes on to explain there are minimal gender differences (most of which aren’t statistically significant) between men and women on identifying as “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” or on stating they believe abortion should be legal in all cases, illegal in all cases, or legal only under certain circumstances.

Hill poll (2018)

Hill.TV and HarrisX American Barometer survey

HarrisX conducted a 2018 poll on behalf of The Hill which found that 53% of women (and 58% of men) said abortion should either be legal only for rape, incest & to save the life of the mother (40% of women/43% of men), or illegal all the time (13% of women/15% of men). Note these stats are for the entire polling sample set, not only the Republican men and women. The Hill discusses the poll here.

Public Religion Research Institute poll (2019)

The State of Abortion and Contraception Attitudes in all 50 States

This 2019 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found women are 13 points more likely than men (84% to 71%) to support government insurance coverage of contraception, but the gap shrinks to only 3 points (48% to 45%) for coverage of abortion. (See “Support for Government Health Insurance Covering Contraception and Abortion” section.)

Additionally, the following will only support a candidate who shares their views on abortion:

  • 14% pro-choice men
  • 22% pro-choice women
  • 25% pro-life men
  • 29% pro-life women

Pro-life women are least compromising on abortion. (See “How Abortion Opinion Impacts Vote Choices” section.)

Vox (2019)

Men and women have similar views on abortion

This 2019 Vox article gives an overview of many issues on which public opinion is divided by gender, and then points out that abortion isn’t one of those issues.

Gender-based opinion gaps are a widespread feature of politics both worldwide and in the US specifically. American women are far more likely to approve of the expansion of government programs than men, for example. Abortion just doesn’t happen to be one of the issues that display a notably large gender gap.

Matthew Yglesias

NPR (2019)

Majority Want To Keep Abortion Legal, But They Also Want Restrictions

This 2019 NPR article explains Republican women are more likely than Republican men to identify as “pro-life,” oppose insurance coverage of abortion procedures, and oppose laws allowing abortion at any point in pregnancy in cases of rape.

It’s a reminder that Republican women, in many ways, are the backbone of the movement opposing abortion rights.

Washington Post (2021)

Conservative Republican women have led the fight to restrict abortion

This 2021 Washington Post article explains the many ways women lead the fight to restrict abortion (such as interest group leaders proposing model legislation, legislators introducing abortion restrictions bills at the state level, and judges voting to uphold restrictions).

Texas Trends Survey (2021)

University of Houston & Texas Southern University found

The figure reveals no salient gender differences in regard to abortion, with one minor exception. Women (41%) are significantly more likely than men (33%) to believe abortion should always be illegal after 20 weeks.

The poll also found that 52% of Texan women support outlawing abortion after a heartbeat is detected with exception only for the woman’s life.

You can find many of these sources in a Twitter thread here and on Facebook here.