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Focus Group Report: Women On The State Of Abortion Rights

Thursday, June 6, 2024 By Rachael Russell
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Focus Groups: Abortion Rights

This Navigator Research report contains findings from focus groups conducted on May 29th among independent and Republican women in Ohio, Democratic women in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and soft partisan women under the age of 30 in Florida, Montana, Nevada, Texas, and Wisconsin on the state of abortion rights in the country.

Women across the ideological spectrum are deeply aware of the abortion debate in the country, viewing it as “backwards” and “a slippery slope.”

Among many of the things participants see as going poorly in the country today, abortion rights comes up organically as an example of the country being in decline. As one Republican in Ohio put it: “I think we’re on a slippery slope. I mean, I think we have plenty of rights now, but I can see a downward shift and I’m concerned about that… the first thing is Roe v. Wade, women’s right to decide for themselves what they want to do. Aren’t they banning one of the abortion meds or something? I mean, I just think this is the start.” An independent in Michigan similarly noted: “I think as women, we’ve had some really important rights stripped away, and regardless of which side of the coin you might be on politically, it’s scary. It’s scary to go backwards and to go backwards just so quickly.” Another Republican in Ohio said: “We’re in 2024. I feel like we should have moved on. I don’t know why they’re trying to take away rights that we’ve already had before.”

  • Many understand the debate as much further reaching than strictly abortion, with one Ohio independent saying: “I think that the overturning of Roe v. Wade was a big blow, not only for women’s reproductive rights, but also with the impact that it has on the IVF community as well, because I have two granddaughters that were products of IVF.” A weak Democrat in Pennsylvania similarly said: “Abortion rights isn’t just about abortion. It’s like it’s going to cover everything. I feel so sorry for the young women anymore. I’m way beyond that. But yeah, it’s not just abortion, they’re coming after IVF, they’re coming after birth control, they’re coming after the two Ms, those medications.”
Focus group report slide on abortion titled: Lack of Access Seen as “Going Backwards,” or a “Slippery Slope,” Linking It To Other Injustices

Women feel both theoretical and direct impacts of abortion bans — with younger women feeling it most acutely.

When asked what has been the impact of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a younger Democrat in Pennsylvania said: “They’re closing down clinics and it’s messing with other people’s health care, general livelihoods. Not just the abortion part of it, but other things as well. And I’m seeing a lot on social media. People are asking for funding to be able to go to another state where they can do this. I’m seeing a lot of… women that tried to self-abort and it went horribly wrong, and either they passed or they’re in the hospital very sick, and now it’s worse.” A young Republican woman in Ohio also said: “I feel like a lot of people are crossing state borders, and also even if they do look into other states that do allow it, a lot of the clinics are already booked out so sometimes they’re not even able to do it in other states and they’re just stuck.” Many worry about rights for future generations, as a younger Democrat in Michigan said: “Nothing for me, but obviously there’s stories of other women going through health crises. And it does make me think of my daughter and the future for her and friends’ daughters.

  • Some women talk about the impacts abortion bans have had on their own lives. A young independent in Nevada said: “My husband and I had been very seriously talking about having children, and we were living in a state at the time that was completely red. From the point of conception, six weeks, which most people don’t even know that they’re pregnant by six weeks. And there were talks of having an abortion [leading] to jail time. And I spent days crying, fearing for what that could be for me, and theoretically being in jail and what that could look like. So I mean, for me, it was terrifying and heartbreaking, but not at all surprising that the people in power were able to overturn that.” 
  • A younger weak Democrat in Montana shared: “Just personally, I remember after Roe v. Wade fell, becoming really paranoid about the birth control methods I was choosing. And because of that, I went from a method, like the birth control pill that worked really well for me for years, to the implant, and had so many bad side effects. And I just stuck with it for a year because, at least personally, I was in an abusive relationship, I could not escape. I needed to have a birth control method. And knowing that that option of abortion was gone, and the implications of having to carry a pregnancy in this abusive relationship, I just basically felt like I was left with no other choice but to switch my birth control. And it worked really poorly for me.
Focus group report slide titled: Younger Women Share Painful Stories of What Bans Have Meant To Them
Focus group report slide titled: Abortion Bans Have Made Young Women Think Twice When Planning Their Future; Others Fear For Future Generations

Participants believe there should be a uniform law protecting abortion access, while a national abortion ban seems unfathomable.

When asked whether abortion laws should be left to each state to decide, participants said access shouldn’t depend on where you live. One Ohio independent said: “Even though women do have the rights to go to another state, you’re always going to have the women who are of lower income or who just don’t have the resources to be able to cross a state line, to go to another state to have the abortion.” A Wisconsin independent similarly noted: “I’m a pretty large fan most of the time of local governments having a good degree of power, and not putting too much power in the federal government. However, on abortion, because it’s so contentious and the two sides aren’t even speaking the same language, I do think that having some sort of federal standard would probably be the most reasonable thing to do here.

  • When asked about the concept of a national abortion ban, many hadn’t considered the possibility, with one Michigan independent saying: “I was just thinking that I’ve heard of it being managed state to state, and so that’s always how I’ve been perceiving it. Now, the more that we’re talking, I’m just, I don’t know. I’m getting more and more frightened and disgusted.” An Ohio independent also said: “I don’t think I could see it happening within the next couple years just because I’m thinking about the precedent they would need and the process of getting that to the Supreme Court, and I also think that it’s really just those conservatives who want the abortion ban.”
  • Some younger women have heard about a national abortion ban in the context of “Project 2025.” A weak Democrat in Montana said: “I mean, I’ve heard definitely rhetoric about it in communities online. A lot of people who are in political communities, like on Reddit, who are more liberal leaning, I’ve noticed… I think it’s called Project 2025.”
Focus group report slide titled: Some Predict a National Ban Causing an Uprising, or Wonder If It Might Not Impact Their Own (Blue) State

While former President Trump is seen as responsible for Roe being overturned, most see him as pandering to his base.

Many blame Trump for Roe being overturned, including one weak Democrat in Pennsylvania saying: “Well, we know what happened. Nobody wants to say it, but when Trump came in, he put in three Supreme Court [Justices] that are evangelicals and they have this agenda. They’ve had the agenda for years. And they finally, he stacked the court and they got rid of Roe v. Wade.” However, many see Trump as merely catering to his base, as opposed to having strongly held beliefs, including an Ohio independent who said: “I don’t know that he is so much pro-life as he knows that that is very beneficial to his campaign.” A Wisconsin independent said: “I don’t really believe that he stands on anything except for his own alter ego. I most definitely feel like this man is going to try to do anything he can to make it all about him.” 

  • Trump’s inconsistencies on issues has made some unsure of whether he would enact a national abortion ban. One Nevada independent put it as: “My only thought is I don’t think abortion is Donald Trump’s highest priority… It’s not to say that it could never happen… it’s unclear because it’s so wishy- washy. But again, I think he’s got things that are higher priority.” A Texas independent said: “I feel like he’s just only doing this stuff just to get people to vote for him. I think half that stuff on that list is not something he’s actually going to do.” While a Republican in Ohio said she sees him clearly on the issue: “I believe that he is for a ban, for an abortion ban, and I think he speaks out of both sides of his mouth and he’s very good at manipulating the public. Well, I don’t think he manipulates the public, I think we all see him for who he is now.
Focus group report slide titled: But Many Are Skeptical He Personally Opposes Abortion

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About The Study

GBAO conducted three online focus groups May 29, 2024 with Democratic, independent, and Republican women who believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases in various states. Some quotes have been lightly edited for brevity. Qualitative results are not statistically projectable.

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About Navigator

In a world where the news cycle is the length of a tweet, our leaders often lack the real-time public-sentiment analysis to shape the best approaches to talking about the issues that matter the most. Navigator is designed to act as a consistent, flexible, responsive tool to inform policy debates by conducting research and reliable guidance to inform allies, elected leaders, and the press. Navigator is a project led by pollsters from Global Strategy Group and GBAO along with an advisory committee, including: Andrea Purse, progressive strategist; Arkadi Gerney, The Hub Project; Joel Payne, The Hub Project; Christina Reynolds, EMILY’s List; Delvone Michael, Working Families; Felicia Wong, Roosevelt Institute; Mike Podhorzer, AFL-CIO; Jesse Ferguson, progressive strategist; Navin Nayak, Center for American Progress Action Fund; Stephanie Valencia, EquisLabs; and Melanie Newman, Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

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