AJC poll: Most voters oppose restrictions on abortion, Georgia’s new ban

Abortion rights activists protest July 21 in Atlanta. The previous day a federal appeals court allowed Georgia’s restrictive “heartbeat” abortion law to take effect. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Abortion rights activists protest July 21 in Atlanta. The previous day a federal appeals court allowed Georgia’s restrictive “heartbeat” abortion law to take effect. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Most Georgia voters oppose a new restrictive abortion law that took effect last week, and many say a candidate’s support or opposition to the procedure will have an impact on who gets their vote, according to a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll.

The AJC poll gives a glimpse into the thinking of Georgia voters after the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, which for nearly 50 years guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion. That ruling led to a U.S. Appeals Court panel’s decision last week to let the new law go into effect vastly liming abortion in Georgia.

In the poll, about 42% of likely voters said they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to protect abortion rights. About 26% said they’re motivated to vote for candidates who want to limit access to the procedure. About one-quarter said it makes no difference.

William Smith, a Macon resident and sales manager for a manufacturing company, said while he personally opposes abortion, he disagrees with banning the procedure.

Smith, who said he’s a former Republican voter who now identifies as a conservative, said if he finds himself torn between candidates in a particular race, he will choose the hopeful who supports abortion rights.

“It is the woman’s right to make that decision,” he said.

Javier Rodriguez, a Suwanee resident who typically votes for Republicans, said that as a Catholic, he is opposed to abortion and supports candidates who align with his beliefs.

“If someone opposes abortion, it’s one of the bigger factors” considered when selecting a candidate, he said.

Almost 55% of voters polled by the AJC said they disagree with Georgia’s new abortion law, which outlaws the procedure in most cases once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and before many know they are pregnant. About 36% of Georgians polled support the measure.

Those figures align with results of a January AJC poll that found about 54% of respondents opposing the then-pending new law.

The new law in Georgia allows abortions in cases of rape, incest, if the life of the woman is in danger or in instances of “medical futility,” when a fetus would not be able to survive. A police report is required in order to obtain a later abortion if the pregnancy is caused by rape or incest.

Abortion rights advocates and providers challenged the law in federal court. The law was blocked from taking effect in 2019, but in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a panel of appeals court judges allowed Georgia’s statute to take effect last week. The law is now being challenged in state court.

Nearly 54% of Georgia voters polled oppose the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, with 49% saying they were “strongly opposed.” Nearly 39% of those polled said they agreed with the Supreme Court ruling, with about 31% of those people “strongly supporting” the decision.

Opposition to the overturning of Roe v. Wade fell sharply from responses to a January AJC poll, when 68% of respondents said they did not want the court to eliminate the constitutional guarantee to the procedure.

The poll of 902 likely voters was conducted July 14-22 and has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points. It was conducted by the University of Georgia’s School of Policy and International Affairs. All the voters were contacted after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and some were contacted after Georgia’s new abortion law took effect.

About 39% of those polled said they have “very little” confidence in the Supreme Court. A plurality of Georgians across most demographic groups, except those who identify as conservative or Republican, said they had very little confidence in the high court. Nearly 19% of all voters polled said they have “a great deal” of confidence in the court.

The U.S. Supreme Court has a conservative, Republican-appointed majority.

“My confidence in the Supreme Court has always been low,” said Sarah Jinks, a 38-year-old Thomaston resident who identifies as a Democrat. “The world has changed greatly since they were coming up. I cant believe, in my mind, that they would make any relevant decisions or they’re completely in touch with the citizens of this country.”

Having achieved a goal that anti-abortion advocates have worked toward for nearly 50 years, some Republican lawmakers say they want to end all exceptions for those seeking abortions, but the idea had little support in the poll. Nearly three-quarters of likely Georgia voters said they oppose legislation that would ban all abortions in the state, while about 21% back it.

Rodriguez, 24, said that life begins at conception and abortion at any point is murder.

“If you consider an embryo to be a baby in the womb, or a child, abortion is murder,” he said, adding that he would agree with terminating a pregnancy to save the life of the mother if the Catholic Church took that position. ”I can only think, in the Catholic faith, there’s really no exception.”

Jinks, who works in customer support and has an 18-year-old daughter, said Georgia’s new law limiting access to abortion is “terrifying” for her, her daughter and other women in Georgia.

“The ‘heartbeat’ bill is way too harsh, and I definitely don’t support a complete ban,” she said, adding that she has a medical condition that could make a pregnancy difficult for her. “I’m married. I have the right to have sex with my husband. We take precautions, but if I landed myself pregnant, it could kill me. Am I just not supposed to enjoy intimate time with my husband? It doesn’t make sense.”

Staff writer Shannon McCaffrey contributed to this article.