Most Young Americans Have No Clue About Roe v. Wade

PHOTO: PregnantKingRay/Flickr
Pregnant mother.

On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, less than half of Americans under the age of 30 know that the landmark Supreme Court decision made abortion legal in the United States.

In fact, 56 percent of young Americans polled didn't know that the case, which was decided on Jan. 22, 1973, had to do with abortion at all, according to a Pew study published this month. In comparison, 62 percent of adults (30 and over) answered the question correctly.

Young people may be in the dark, but the Supreme Court decision affects them more than those in older age groups. For example, Seventy-four percent of all abortion procedures are performed on women ages 29 and younger in the United States.

Intense backlash from Roe v. Wade continues to this day, with March for Life groups pledging to rally in cities around the world on the 40th anniversary of the decision. And while three-quarters of Americans now believe abortion should be legal under some or all circumstances, only 41 percent identify themselves as "pro-choice" according to a Gallup poll from last year.

In a Time Magazine cover story that ran earlier this month, author Kate Pickert argued that many states have limited Roe v. Wade by passing various restrictions on legal abortion and that pro-choice activism has largely failed to counter the alleged affront to the landmark decision.

"In 2011, 92 abortion-regulating provisions--a record number--passed in 24 states after Republicans gained new and larger majorities in 2010 in many legislatures across the country. These laws make it harder every year to exercise a right heralded as a crowning achievement of the 20th century women's movement," Pickert wrote. "In many ways, the fight to preserve access to abortion is even more daunting than the fight to legalize it 40 years ago."

The recent Pew study also found that overall both genders were equally aware (62 percent of those polled) that Roe dealt with abortion rights. However, those with more education were more likely to know about the decision those with less education. Ninety one percent of those with post-graduate degrees knew about the decision, while only 47 percent of those with no more than a high school education were aware of Roe v. Wade.

Critics of legalized abortion also seem to more aware of Roe v. Wade than those who support it, according to the study. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents, and 57 percent of Democrats knew of the landmark decision.