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Confusion on abortion, mistrust in US Supreme Court followed Dobbs decision, survey finds

<i>Sue Ogrocki/AP</i><br/>Abby Tow
Sue Ogrocki/AP
Abby Tow

By Deidre McPhillips, CNN

(CNN) — The US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, created a fractured abortion landscape in the United States. Nearly a year later, a new KFF survey shows that it has left widespread confusion about the legal status of abortion, along with little trust in the high court to decide cases on reproductive health.

Most adults in the United States disapprove of the Supreme Court’s performance in general, the survey found, along with more than 6 of 10 who say that they don’t trust the court’s ability to decide cases related to reproductive and sexual health.

In April, the Supreme Court made another significant abortion-related decision, this time protecting access to mifepristone – a drug that is approved for use in medication abortion by the US Food and Drug Administration – which has been challenged in lower courts. Nearly two-thirds of survey participants say that they have at least some confidence in the FDA’s efforts to ensure that medications are safe and effective, and most agree that it would be inappropriate for a court to overturn that authority.

Awareness of mifepristone grew significantly in the past year amid the legal attention.

But there’s still general uncertainty around the legal status of abortion. In the 14 states where abortion is banned, about 1 in 8 residents incorrectly believes that medication abortion is still legal there. And more than half of residents say they are unsure of the legality of abortion in their state.

Amid the confusion and unease, many women are changing their approach to contraception.

More than half of women under 50 say that they or someone they know has taken a precaution – such as getting a new prescription for contraception, stocking up on contraception options or delaying getting pregnant – because they were concerned about having access to an abortion, the survey found.

And abortion remains a key issue for voters heading into the 2024 presidential election.

About 3 in 10 registered voters say that they will vote only for a candidate who shares their views on abortion. No party has a clear majority; about a third say that neither represents their views. But respondents are more likely to say that their views align with the Democratic Party (42%) than the Republican Party (26%).

The new KFF survey data is based on responses from a representative sample of about 1,700 adults collected in mid-May.

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