Pa. voters trust Biden on abortion over Trump by a wide margin

Pennsylvania voters overwhelmingly trust President Joe Biden more than former President Donald Trump with abortion policy — an issue that could prove to be essential for Biden as he trails Trump on other key issues in the state.

A poll from The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, and Siena College asked Pennsylvania voters which candidate would better handle four issues — abortion, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, crime, and the economy.

Abortion is the only one where Biden led.

While Trump polled higher in every other category, voters trusted Biden with abortion by a wide 20-point margin. And 66% of respondents to a separate question said Trump bore some or a lot of responsibility for the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and ending the right to abortion.

The poll of 1,023 registered voters was conducted from April 28 to May 7.

Biden has made abortion rights a focus of his campaign in Pennsylvania, speaking on the issue in Delaware County on the day after the State of Union.

Trump has bragged about his role in paving the way for the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ended the federal right to an abortion. But he’s sent mixed messages about the issue on the campaign trail, floating support for a 15-week federal ban earlier this year before more recently saying it should be left to the states.

“It’s now up to the will of the people in each state. Some states will be more conservative and others will be more liberal,” Trump said Saturday at his rally in Wildwood.

The numbers show a continued frustration among Pennsylvanians over the fall of federal protections for abortion rights as Biden continues to make reproductive rights a central tenet of his reelection campaign.

“The day the Dobbs decision was passed I was screaming at the TV,” said Heidi Carroll, a 51-year-old from Washington in Western Pennsylvania.

She plans to vote for Biden and hopes the federal government will reinstate the right to an abortion.

Pennsylvania is unlikely to change its abortion laws over the next few years. Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro promised to veto any legislation that would reduce abortion access, and the GOP-controlled state Senate would not approve any abortion expansion.

Pennsylvania’s state Supreme Court stopped just short of recognizing abortion access as a right protected by the state’s constitution earlier this year, but three of the five justices on the case signaled they’d be open to such a finding in the future.

According to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research group, 14 states have enacted total or near total bans on abortion in the last two years while five more are enforcing restrictions on abortions between the sixth and 12th week of pregnancy.

As the impacts of these bans have played out across the country, including stories of women being forced to carry dangerous and nonviable pregnancies, abortion has proven to be a powerful voting issue for Democrats.

On every ballot measure on the issue since the June 2022 decision, voters have voted in favor of abortion rights.

The poll found voters in the state in line with national trends as 65% of voters believed abortion should be always or mostly legal while just 27% said it should be always or mostly illegal.

Jennifer Marvelous, a 53-year-old Biden voter from Philly who cited abortion as a top issue, said positions on abortion have “a lot to do with how leaders see women in general.”

If Trump won reelection, she said, she would expect abortion rights to be further threatened in the country.

Carroll, however, said she wasn’t sure either candidate would make much of a difference. Trump had said the issue should be left to the states but Biden, she noted, “hasn’t done anything yet to make it better.”

Biden’s ability to draw out a wide swath of voters motivated by abortion will be key to his reelection chances in November. And the campaign knows it.

Vice President Kamala Harris last week visited Montgomery County for an event focused on reproductive rights, where she sharply criticized Trump for his role appointing the justices that overturned Roe v. Wade.

“We just have to call it for what it is,” Harris said. “Do you not trust women to know what is in their best interest?”

But Biden does not have universal support among voters who believe abortion should be legal. The poll found Trump supporters split on the issue with 42% believing abortion should be legal and 46% believing it should be illegal or mostly illegal.

One of those voters, 68-year-old Kathe Sobczak, explained that she believed abortion should be an option in many cases but called it “crazy” to have an abortion in the eighth month of a pregnancy. Trump made claims about abortion in the eighth and ninth month during his Saturday rally, after the poll was completed.

Abortions that late, however, are exceedingly rare. The most recent CDC data on abortion nationwide found that less than 1% of abortions occurred after the 21st week of pregnancy. Several states, including Pennsylvania, restrict abortions around the time a fetus reaches viability at 24 weeks. In Pennsylvania, patients can only seek an abortion after the 23rd week of their pregnancy if their health is in danger.

Sobczak said her opinion was formed after a classmate in her Catholic high school died after seeking “backdoor abortion.”

“I do believe in legal abortions. I never forgot,” said Sobczak, who lives in Philadelphia. But she said only about 5% of her vote was based upon abortion.

“My vote for Donald Trump isn’t really for the abortion issues, it’s because of the economy. My stance on the abortion issue, I feel strongly about that and I know how he feels about that, however my vote for him is really about the economy and other issues and food prices,” she said.

“If it was Joe Biden I would be worried about access expanding.”

Staff writer Gillian McGoldrick and Camille Baker and Shivani Gonzalez of the New York Times contributed to this article.

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