Since the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. the question has become one of the defining dividing lines of American politics with Democratic politicians strongly supporting abortion rights and Republican lawmakers lining up in opposition.

In 1973 the lines were more blurred. Republican and Democratic voters were equally likely to say that the abortion should be legal while it was easy to find Republican officials who supported abortion rights and Democrats who opposed the procedure.

So what changed?


Abortion-on-demand was legal in four states in the early 1970s, while 14 others allowed it in some circumstances.

While the Catholic Church opposed abortion, the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical denomination, declared that it should be allowed in many circumstances.

Neither party viewed abortion as a defining issue.

Republicans, like the first lady Betty Ford called Roe’s decision “a great, great decision,” while some Democrats, such as a newly elected senator named Joe Biden They said the court’s ruling went “too far”.

Voters didn’t see the issue along partisan lines, either. The General Social Survey opinion poll found in 1977 that 39% of Republicans said abortion should be allowed for any reason, versus 35% of Democrats.


In the years that followed, conservative activists like Phyllis Schlafly seized on the issue as a threat to traditional values ​​and recruited evangelical churches, which had shown a new interest in politics after a series of court rulings limiting prayer in public places.

These groups presented abortion as a threat to the family structure, along with broader social developments such as gay rights, rising divorce rates, and women working outside the home. For pastors and parishioners, abortion has become a surrogate issue for concerns about a liberalized society, he said. Mary Ziegler legal historian at the University of California-Davis.

“For many evangelicals, it was more about family, women and sex,” he said.

In 1980, the Southern Baptist Convention passed resolution opposing abortion reversing its previous position.

The Republican presidential victory Ronald Reagan that same year gave abortion opponents a powerful ally in the White House. At the same time, women’s rights activists gained more influence within the Democratic Party and pressured their leaders to support abortion rights.

But support for Roe remained out of line with party lines.

In a Senate vote in 1983, 34 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would have nullified the Roe decision, while 19 Republicans and 31 Democrats voted against it.

Biden was one of those who voted again steven though he had supported the legislation in committee the year before.


In the years that followed, the dividing lines became more apparent as political candidates increasingly found it necessary to align themselves with activists that they were becoming more influential within their parties.

the republican George H.W. Bush and opponent of abortion who had previously supported the right to abortion, he won the presidency in 1988. In 1992 he was defeated by the Democrat Bill Clinton, a supporter of abortion rights who had previously opposed it.

Since 1989, groups defending the abortion rights have donated $32 million to Democrats and $3 million to Republican candidates who support keeping abortion legal, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics. The Anti-abortion groups have donated $14 million to Republicans and only $372,000 to Democrats during this period.

Voters were slower to decide. In 1991, 45% of Democrats and 41% of Republicans declared themselves supportive of abortion for any reason, according to the General Social Survey.

However, partisan differences widened in the following years, when the theme became a staple of TV attack commercials to raise funds and massive concentrations of interest groups.

At the turn of the century, only 31% of Republicans supported abortion on demand, while Democrats’ support stood at 45%, according to the General Social Survey.


Other opinion polls have consistently shown that most Americans support some restrictions on abortion but oppose an outright ban.

At the same time, Democrats have increased their support for abortion rights.

Biden, who supported a ban on federal funding of most abortions in the Medicaid program for the poor for most of his political career, he reversed his position when he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

In the current Congress, only one House Democrat and one Senate Democrat voted against the legislation that would make abortion legal across the country under any circumstances. The bill failed in the Senate, but Democrats have said they plan to make it a central issue in the November 2022 elections.

Among Democratic voters, support for unrestricted abortion has jumped from 56% in 2016 to 71% last year according to the General Social Survey, while Republican support remains hovering around 34%.

Categorized in: