Myth 5: Roe v. Wade was welcomed by American women.
“Reality: Opinion polls from the early 1970s indicated that American women were more strongly opposed to abortion than American men were, and that the number of pro-life women was slightly higher than the number of women who were pro-choice. A March 1974 Gallup poll showed that 49 percent of American women – compared to 38 percent of men – opposed the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe, while only 43 percent supported it. Opposition to abortion was especially strong among Catholic women (69 percent of whom opposed Roe), but was also widespread among women who were Protestants (44 percent of whom opposed the Court’s ruling, compared to 46 percent who supported it). The majority of pro-life activists were women, as were many of the leaders of the nation’s pro-life organizations. The president of the National Right to Life Committee in the mid-1970s was the Boston Methodist physician Mildred Jefferson, the first African American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School.
“In short, the way that many Americans understand Roe v. Wade today – that is, as a liberal women’s rights decision that gave women throughout the United States immediate access to abortion – says more about the politics of a later era than the political situation of 1973. The original historical context of Roe, when women were more likely to oppose abortion than to support it, and when opposition to abortion was more pronounced among liberals than conservatives, suggests an origin of the nation’s abortion debate that might have been far different than many historians have imagined.”