Americans and Abortion: An Overview

More than 35 years after the U.S. Supreme Court's historic Roe v. Wade (1973) decision granted a woman the constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy, abortion remains a controversial issue. Indeed, although the frequency of abortions in the U.S. has dropped to its lowest point since 1974, the debate over abortion continues to play a prominent role in state and federal politics.

Although Roe prohibited states from banning abortion until late in a woman's pregnancy, subsequent high court rulings allowed states more power to regulate the procedure. Today, there is an uneven patchwork of abortion laws around the country. For example, while 17 states provide public funding for all or most abortions that are deemed medically necessary, 28 states require doctors to provide a woman with some form of counseling about the risks of abortion and 24 states oblige a woman to complete a waiting period before having an abortion.

Read the full report Americans and Abortion: An Overview on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.