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Missouri Republican leaders tout strong abortion restrictions. Here’s what residents think

A crowd of people hold signs and shout. Some are raising their fist. The signs indicate they are abortion-rights activists.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Members of the crowd chant during a rally on Tuesday at the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, where protesters gathered to decry the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court indicating the landmark Roe v. Wade decision will be overturned.

More Missourians want to keep abortion legal than make it illegal, a major national research organization found.

Some Missouri Republican leaders, including Gov. Mike Parson, have voiced approval of a leaked opinion draft suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision protecting abortion rights.

If Roe v. Wade were overturned, a Missouri law would automatically ban almost all abortions in the state.

Speaking in Branson on Wednesday, Parson said he would welcome this outcome, arguing that Missouri is “very pro-life.”

However, public polling shows that Missourians are divided in their views about abortion rights, with divergent views even among members of the same political parties.

Abortion should be legal in all or most cases, said 49% of Missourian residents, while 45% said it should be illegal, according to polling conducted in 2018, the most recent year that statewide data is available, by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan research firm based in Washington D.C. Seven percent of respondents said they didn’t know or refused to answer.

National polling results released this week by PRRI showed that 61% of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade while 36% want the decision overturned. The polling was conducted in March of 2022.

Missourians’ responses suggest the state is more in favor of abortion restrictions than the national average, though roughly in the middle among states.

“It positions it fairly in line with the rest of the Midwest, but certainly more conservative on the issue, compared to the rest of the nation,” said PRRI CEO Robert Jones.

Support for legal abortion ran highest in the northeast U.S. and on the West Coast, the polling showed. Southern and mountain states showed the least support for legal abortion.

Missourian’s support for legal abortion was similar to rates seen in Georgia, North Carolina and Indiana.

Kansas City residents approved of legal abortion in all or most cases by 50%, while 44% thought abortion should be illegal, according to the 2018 polls. St. Louis residents, meanwhile, supported legal abortion by 53%, and making abortion illegal was opposed by 41%.

Though opinions on abortion policy often align closely with political affiliation, the PRRI researchers found many Missouri respondents did not share the views held by most in their party.

“Among Republicans, it is two-to-one opposed to the legality of abortion, but it means that 28% of Republicans say that abortion should be legal,” Jones explained.

Mirroring those findings, the researchers found that a quarter of Missouri Democrats said abortion should be illegal.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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