Abortion is common in the United States (US), although access is becoming more difficult for some. In addition to restrictive policies that ban most abortion, limit the number of providers and increase costs, barriers to access also include less supportive cultural climates and stigma related to abortion. Prior to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision of the United States Supreme Court, research suggested that people generally believed it was easy to access abortion, but this research did not examine the underlying factors that drive these perceptions.
In 2019, using data from closed and open-ended survey questions, we examined differences in people’s assessment of abortion access within the state they reside and factors that influence those perceptions. We recruited English- and Spanish-speaking US adults (N = 2599) from Qualtrics’ national panel using quota-based sampling to participate in a web-based survey. We used multinomial logistic regression to examine predictors of access perceptions across demographic characteristics and thematic analysis to analyze open-ended responses.
Fifty-three percent of participants believed abortion was easy to access in their state. Spanish speakers and participants from legislatively “hostile” states were more likely to perceive access as difficult. Legality-related knowledge and pro-life identity were associated with perceiving abortion access as easy.
Prior to Dobbs, participants’ interpretation of the ease or difficulty of accessing abortion were subjective. Misconceptions about state abortion laws and the prevalence of providers were common, suggesting a need for more education about abortion laws, policies, and access.