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Two in Three Support Updating the Comstock Act To Not Apply To Abortion

Wednesday, June 12, 2024 By Rachael Russell
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Poll: The Comstock Act

This Navigator Research report contains polling data on how Americans view the Comstock Act — the 1873 law that gives the government the power to ban abortion — including awareness of the law and support for updating the law to no longer apply to abortion, as well as the most convincing messages in support of changing the law.

Two in three Americans have heard nothing about the Comstock Act.


Two in three Americans have heard nothing about the Comstock Act; however, after being informed that it gives the government the power to ban abortion, seven in ten are opposed to the Comstock Act in its current form. 66 percent of Americans report having heard nothing about the Comstock Act, including 71 percent of independents, 70 percent of Americans living in battleground states, 69 percent of Republicans, and 61 percent of Democrats. After being given some information about the Comstock Act, including that “it is a 150-year-old law” that gives the government the power to ban abortion and that anti-abortion extremists are trying to use to further erode reproductive freedoms, more than seven in ten Americans are opposed to the Comstock Act in its current state (net -42; 29 percent support – 71 percent oppose). Opposition is cross-partisan, including more than four in five Democrats (86 percent), about three in four independents (73 percent), and nearly three in five Republicans (57 percent). Similarly, two in three Americans support changing the Comstock Act so that it no longer applies to abortion (net +32; 66 percent support – 34 percent oppose), including 67 percent who are supportive in battleground states. 

  • Two in three Americans find it more concerning that the Comstock Act “has the potential to be used to ban all abortions” (63 percent) than find it more concerning that “it will ban medication abortion” (17 percent); a plurality also think it is more likely that it will be used to ban abortion entirely (48 percent) than be used to ban just medication abortion (29 percent). A similar two in three share are also more concerned that the Comstock Act “has the potential to be used to ban IVF, birth control, and Plan B” (63 percent) than that it will just be used to ban medication abortion (20 percent). 
  • More than three in five Americans believe specific abortion and reproductive rights should be legal, including “medication to help manage a miscarriage” (net +67; 80 percent legal – 13 percent illegal), “FDA-approved medication abortion” (net +39; 66 percent legal – 27 percent illegal), “Plan B” (net +48; 64 percent legal – 16 percent illegal), “prescription medication to end a pregnancy” (net +33; 64 percent legal – 31 percent illegal), and “abortion nationwide” (net +31; 62 percent legal – 31 percent illegal).
Bar graph of polling data from Navigator Research. Title: Seven in Ten Americans Have Heard ”Nothing” About the Comstock Act
Bar graph of polling data from Navigator Research. Title: Two in Three Americans Support Changing the Comstock Act So It No Longer Applies to Abortion
Bar graph of polling data from Navigator Research. Title: Two in Three Are More Concerned That Comstock Has the Potential to Ban All Abortions
Bar graph of polling data from Navigator Research. Title: Americans Are Most Concerned That Comstock Could Be Used to Ban IVF, Birth Control, and Plan B

Most convincing reasons to change Comstock Act focus on MAGA extremists using Comstock to further erode freedoms.


More than two in three Americans find a range of statements in support of changing the Comstock Act so it does not apply to abortion to be convincing, particularly when framing that MAGA extremists will try to leverage it as the next step in further restricting reproductive freedom. The most convincing statement to support changing the Comstock Act so that it does not apply to abortion that was tested in this survey was: “MAGA extremists warned us that they wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade. Then they did. They said they’d restrict IVF access. Then they did. They said they’d ban abortion in Texas and Florida. And they did. When they say they’re going to use Comstock to ban abortion, they will.” 72 percent of Americans overall found this statement to be convincing, including 70 percent in battleground states. Other convincing statements to change the Comstock Act so that it does not apply to abortion also emphasize the motivations of MAGA anti-abortion extremists, including:

  • MAGA extremists see Comstock as their chance to ban abortion nationally. Because it is an existing law, Congress doesn’t even have to vote on it. They can ban abortion in every state, overnight, with a single decision by the President. The lawyer who represented Trump before the Supreme Court warned us, “We don’t need a federal ban when we have Comstock on the books.” (70 percent convincing, including 53 percent of independents);
  • Calling to enforce The Comstock Act against abortion is just the latest effort by MAGA extremists to ban all abortion, everywhere, for any reason. They passed extreme abortion bans and restrictions in states across the country like Texas’ law that bans abortion and laws seeking to prosecute people for even helping a woman cross state lines to have a legal abortion in another state (69 percent convincing, including 71 percent of independents); and,
  • Trump has been clear at every turn: He will take away our reproductive freedom. He bragged about overturning Roe v. Wade, saying he is “proudly the person responsible for the ending” of our guaranteed right to abortion and unless we change Comstock, he will finish the job and take away our rights completely. (69 percent convincing, including 64 percent of independents).
Slide from a Navigator report titled: Most Convincing Reasons to Change Comstock Act Focus on MAGA Extremists Using Comstock To Further Erode Freedoms

The top reasons to amend the Comstock Act to not apply to abortion center on the possibility for wider repercussions and that it could end access to all abortion.


The absence of exceptions for rape, incest, or the life or health of the women is the top reason to support amending the Comstock Act (38 percent), followed by that it could end access to all abortion (33 percent) and prevent people with non-abortion related illnesses like cancer and arthritis from getting their medication which happens to also be used in abortion care (33 percent). 

  • After messaging, Americans rank their top concerns with the Comstock Act as it currently stands as that “it has wide-ranging consequences that go far beyond just medication abortion” (64 percent rank this as one of their top two concerns) followed by that “it will make it impossible for many women to get the abortion care they need” (54 percent).
  • The most apt descriptors demonstrating the oldness of the Comstock Act include that it was passed “more than 150 years ago” (56 percent, including 60 percent in battleground states), that it was passed “before women could vote” (42 percent, including 51 percent in battleground states), and that it was passed “in 1873” (42 percent, including 33 percent in battleground states).
  • More than seven in ten Americans think that terms that apply most to the Comstock Act include “1800s abortion ban” (75 percent describes well, including 76 percent in battleground states) and “extreme abortion ban” (72 percent describes well, including 74 percent in battleground states).
Bar graph of polling data from Navigator Research. Title: Top Reason to Change Comstock Act: No Exceptions for Rape, Incest, or the Lives of Women
Bar graph of polling data from Navigator Research. Title: Term That Best Describes the Comstock Act’s Age: “More than 150 Years Old”
Bar graph of polling data from Navigator Research. Title: Three in Four Say “Extreme Abortion Ban” and “1800s Abortion Ban” Most Apply to the Comstock Act

A vast majority of Americans believe it is likely that if Donald Trump were to win the next election, he would enforce the Comstock Act to limit or ban abortion access.


74 percent of Americans believe it is likely Trump would enforce the Comstock Act if he were to win the next presidential election, including nearly nine in ten Democrats (88 percent), seven in ten independents (69 percent), and three in five Republicans (61 percent). Additionally, three in four believe that if Trump wins the next election, the mailing of medication to end a pregnancy will be banned nationwide (75 percent) and nearly two in three believe abortion will be banned nationwide (64 percent).

Bar graph of polling data from Navigator Research. Title: Americans Broadly See Abortion as at Risk if Trump Wins

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About The Study

Global Strategy Group conducted a public opinion survey among a sample of 812 likely 2024 voters from May 23-June 3, 2024. 599 additional interviews were conducted in battleground states, including Arizona, Florida, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Texas. The survey was conducted online, recruiting respondents from an opt-in online panel vendor. Respondents were verified against a voter file and special care was taken to ensure the demographic composition of our sample matched that of the national registered voter population across a variety of demographic variables.

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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.

For press inquiries contact: press@navigatorresearch.org