How A Year Without a Roe Changed America's View of Abortion

“I want to tell people that it's OK to vote against the party line,” he said.

South Carolina legislators passed a state ban in May, against opposition from a small group of women legislators, both Republicans and Democrats. Opinion polls show that state voters opposed the ban, but like in many states, legislative districts are mandated and seats are often uncontested, so Republican lawmakers are often more concerned with key challenges from the right than the general election battle.

Abortion rights groups emphasize that most Americans want restrictions on abortion — and they do, only 22 percent Americans in a Gallup poll say abortion should be legal in the third trimester.

“People will react to once-in-a-generation events. It is true, and it should serve as a warning to Republicans,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which was founded to help elect lawmakers who oppose abortion rights. Republicans, he said, should portray the Democratic candidate as extremist on abortion: “Otherwise, they might lose.”

A coalition of Republicans and evangelicals has waged a four-decade campaign to end abortion, but the number of Americans who identify as evangelicals has dropped sharply. And opinion polls on abortion suggest the political dynamics may be shifting.

Most women ages 18 to 49, and especially Democrats, say they will only vote for candidates who support their views on abortion. On the other hand, Republicans were less enthusiastic. The Public Religion Research Institute found that the share of Republicans who think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases and who say they will only vote for candidates whose views match their own has fallen significantly, to 30 percent last December from 42 percent in December 2020.

“That was the direct effect of Dobbs,” said Melissa Deckman, chief executive of PRRI and a political scientist.

“Does that mean suddenly Republicans will change their minds about abortion? No, partisans choose partisans,” he said. “But this is a matter of salience and turnout.”