Poll: Most Americans say Supreme Court should reverse Texas ruling on abortion pill mifepristone

Demonstrators hold signs that read: Keep abortion legal, and rally in support of abortion rights at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
Demonstrators rally in support of abortion rights at the Supreme Court on April 15. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

By a more-than-2-to-1 margin, most Americans (51%) now say the Supreme Court “should prevent any changes” to the availability of the abortion pill mifepristone “by reversing the Texas ruling” from earlier this month that effectively ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the medication nationwide, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

In contrast, just 22% of Americans think “the Supreme Court should outlaw mifepristone in all 50 states by upholding the Texas ruling.”

Among registered voters, meanwhile, the gap is even larger, with a full 57% saying the court should reverse the Texas ruling and a mere 21% saying the opposite.

The survey of 1,530 U.S. adults, which was conducted from April 14 to 17, finds the public in opposition — by wide and largely consistent margins — to the prospect of new restrictions on abortion medication.

More than half of abortions in the U.S. today are induced by prescription pills. Two artificial hormone pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, are prescribed by a health care provider and then taken by a pregnant person to end a pregnancy. For years they have been legal for abortion nationwide during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy (and to manage miscarriages).

Packages of mifepristone tablets displayed on a table.
On April 7, a Texas judge issued a preliminary ruling that the Food and Drug Administration must suspend its 23-year-old approval of mifepristone. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

But earlier this month a federal judge in Texas ruled that the FDA must suspend its longstanding approval of mifepristone, setting off a frantic legal scramble that is set to enter its next phase Friday when the Supreme Court decides whether to maintain full access to mifepristone while the case is appealed.

Last week, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals blocked the Texas ruling but reversed a series of steps taken by the FDA in recent years to ease access to mifepristone, including allowing it to be sent through the mail, distributed by health care providers who are not doctors and prescribed during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy (rather than just the first seven, as was the case previously).

Yet even this partial rollback is unpopular with Americans, a clear majority of whom say abortion-inducing pills should continue to be legal (54%) rather than illegal (27%) to prescribe. By a margin of 18 percentage points, Americans also say mifepristone should be legal (49%) rather than illegal (31%) “during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy” and “when prescribed by some certified health providers other than doctors, such as family planning clinics.”

It is only on the question of whether the pill should be legal when “mailed to patients instead of being picked up from a health care provider in person” that respondents are more divided, with 41% in favor and 41% opposed.

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Overall, a similar 18-point plurality disapproves (48%) rather than approves (30%) of the Texas ruling. These attitudes closely correspond to more general views on abortion, such as a 52% to 30% majority that favors a national law “keeping abortion as legal and accessible nationwide as it had been under Roe v. Wade” and a 53% to 36% majority that prefers their own state to keep all or most abortions legal rather than illegal in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last June.

A similar number of Americans oppose (52%) rather than favor (28%) state laws — such as the one recently signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — that “would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women are aware that they are pregnant.”

But what may be more notable — particularly as the 2024 election approaches and pundits try to predict how the abortion debate will affect the vote — is the persistent intensity gap between those who support abortion rights and those who oppose such rights.

Today 46% of Americans consider abortion “very important” as a voting issue, and 77% consider it either somewhat or very important. Yet among those who favor codifying Roe v. Wade nationwide, a full 54% rate abortion as very important — compared with just 41% among those who oppose codifying Roe v. Wade. Likewise, Americans who say abortion is a very important voting issue think — by a 2-to-1 margin — that the Democratic Party (52%) does a “better job” of handling it than the Republican Party (27%).

Protesters at the March for Reproductive Rights in Los Angeles hold signs that read: Rights back right now, Bans off our bodies, and We're takin' our rights back.
Protesters at the March for Reproductive Rights in Los Angeles on April 15. (Mario Tama/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

When it comes to mifepristone, there is far less consensus on the right than on the left. Nearly all those who favor having Congress codify Roe v. Wade, for instance, also believe that abortion-inducing pills should be legal to prescribe (83%). Yet a far smaller number of those who oppose codifying Roe v. Wade think abortion pills should be illegal (57%).

By the same token, Democrats overwhelmingly agree that the Supreme Court should prevent any changes to mifepristone’s availability by reversing the Texas ruling (73%) rather than upholding it (16%). But Republicans are divided on the question; in fact, slightly more favor reversing the ruling (37%) than letting it stand (34%). Even the idea of making abortion pills “legal in some states and illegal in others, depending on state laws” (19%) is far less popular among registered voters than the idea of keeping them “legal everywhere” (50%).

As a result, restricting mifepristone is unlikely to be a political winner for Republicans in 2024. At the moment, many more Americans consider it a bad (43%) rather than good idea (25%) “for federal judges to overrule the Food and Drug Administration” — and more express confidence in FDA regulators (56% a lot or some, 44% little or none) than the Supreme Court (46% a lot or some, 54% little or none).

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,530 U.S. adults interviewed online from April 14 to 17, 2023. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (32% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.8%.

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