Roe v. Who? Young Americans clueless about abortion case

As Roe v. Wade turns 40, most Americans under 30 can't correctly identify the nature of the landmark ruling

Topics: Abortion, Roe v. Wade, Reproductive Rights, reproductive justice, Reproductive choice, ,

Roe v. Wade will turn 40 next week, and that’s big news.

But as we mark the anniversary of the landmark ruling guaranteeing a woman’s constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services, efforts to block women’s access in the United States are more common than ever.

That’s why recent findings from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life are so surprising. While 62 percent of Americans know that Roe v. Wade dealt with abortion rights, just 44 percent of people under 30 years old can correctly identify the nature of the Supreme Court decision.

What’s more, a majority of Americans in the post-Roe generation — 62 percent, in fact — also say that they don’t consider abortion to be a critical issue facing the country.

Say what?

According to a policy review released by the Guttmacher Institute, 2012 saw the second-highest number of abortion restrictions ever enacted (2011 came in first). And while Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock became household names, one of the House’s staunchest antiabortion members got second billing on the Republican presidential ticket.

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Americans under 30 may have never lived without the ruling that ended deadly, illegal abortions in the U.S., but those times aren’t exactly behind us, either: The Guttmacher Institute estimates that unsafe abortions across the globe contribute to 47,000 preventable deaths each year.


h/t Think Progress


Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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