A clear majority wants the Supreme Court to uphold abortion rights, polls say

Key Points
  • A clear majority of Americans wants the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade, the ruling legalizing abortion nationwide.
  • As President Donald Trump prepares to pick a conservative replacement for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, concerns have risen among abortion rights advocates that the court could overturn the decision.
  • The potential justice's stance on Roe could be crucial during the confirmation process.
WASHINGTON - JANUARY 22: Pro-choice advocates participate in protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building January 22, 2010 in Washington, DC. Activists from across the nation gathered to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which decriminalized abortion in all fifty states. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson | Getty Images

More than 60 percent of Americans want the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, according to recent polls.

The surveys show a clear majority supports abortion rights as President Donald Trump prepares to appoint a new justice to the top court who could be a decisive voice on the issue. The president, who as a candidate said he wanted to choose judges who would overturn Roe, said he will announce the second Supreme Court choice of his term on July 9.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote on the court on issues such as reproductive rights and gay rights, will retire effective July 31. Abortion rights advocates worry his successor could help the court overturn the Roe ruling.

Such a decision would not align with the views of most Americans, according to the polls. Sixty-one percent of Americans want a new justice who will vote to uphold Roe, while only 31 percent prefer a judge who will overturn it, an NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll released Tuesday found.

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It follows a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, released Friday, which found 67 percent of Americans do not want the high court to reverse Roe. Only 29 percent of respondents to the survey said they want the Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

Two other recent surveys show broad support for the Roe ruling. Voters agree with the decision by a 63 percent to 31 percent margin, a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday found. Meanwhile, a Daily Beast/Ipsos survey found only 33 percent of Americans think abortion should be completely illegal, while 63 percent disagree.

The Roe ruling will be a crucial litmus test for whomever Trump nominates for the seat. How the candidate answers questions about the case could mark or break confirmation in a closely divided Senate.

GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who have generally supported abortion rights, could determine the potential justice's fate. Collins said Sunday that she "would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade."

A possible justice could, of course, avoid declaring open hostility toward the Roe decision during the confirmation process, only to rule to weaken or overturn it on the court.

On Monday, Trump said he interviewed four potential justices and plans to talk to two or three more. Last week, he said he would not ask them about their stances on Roe v. Wade.

Trump described his possible choices as "highly talented, very brilliant, mostly conservative judges."

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