University of Pittsburgh

David J. Garrow on Public Opinion of Abortion 40 Years after Roe v. Wade

Publish Date/Time: 
January 23, 2013

David Garrow, who holds a joint appointment with Pitt Law and the Department of History, commented on Americans’ changing view of the value of children as a possible reason why public opinion of abortion hasn’t shifted much since the Roe v. Wade was decided 40 years ago. When Americans were asked recently whether they thought abortion should be legal under any circumstance, 54 percent said it should, and 22 percent said it should be illegal in all cases. Those numbers are nearly identical to the results of a 1975 poll asking the same question.

Garrow compared how the public views abortion versus same-sex marriage, for which opinions have changed dramatically in the past 10 years. “The fetus as a prospective child makes this much more difficult (for many Americans) than gay equality,” he said. “American society today is much more pro-child and child-oriented than Americans were 40 or 42 or 44 years ago. … I think the fetus has more stature, more status, than it did in 1970 or 1973.”

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