On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion. As trigger laws snapped into place in 12 states, many of the legal repercussions of this decision came into focus — but the question of how it would change sex and relationships remained foggy, clouded by pessimism and grief among members of Gen Z. It still is, but now there’s some data to outline exactly how the overturn of Roe v. Wade has impacted dating in the months since the decision.
Every year, Match’s annual Singles in America study surveys singles on the changes in their dating habits. In 2022, they asked 5,000+ participants about the reversal of Roe v. Wade, and found it had “a tremendous impact on how we love and date today,” per Dr. Helen Fisher, chief scientific advisor at Match, who worked on the study. According to Singles in America, though 75.2 million U.S. singles want a romantic partner, 14% of active daters responded saying that the Supreme Court ruling “is making them more hesitant to date.” 78% of study participants said that the decision “changed their sex life.”
Roe, which had been established law since 1973, had hovered over Americans’ sex lives for nearly 50 years, and its reversal was momentous. July 2022 data from the National Partnership of Women and Families found that around 36 million U.S. women of reproductive age lived in states that were “certain or likely” to ban abortion after Dobbs, and that bans had a disproportionate impact on people of color. By August 2022, more than one-third of U.S. women ages 15-44 had “lost nearly all access to elective abortions in their home states,” per The Washington Post.
The breadth of the impact is why the study intentionally focused on Roe v. Wade. “Part of the objective of Singles in America is to really have the best, richest data set, looking at what's happening in America and how is that shaping people's intimate lives,” explains Dr. Justin Garcia, executive director at the Kinsey Institute and scientific advisor at Match, who also worked on the study. “There was no avoiding that Roe v. Wade was a hot button issue, but no one really knew the ways it was immediately impacting people's sex lives and dating. But we have an opportunity to find out.”
To break down the data a little bit more:
- Two out of three single women will not date someone if they disagree on abortion rights
- 17% (almost one in five) of singles have lost friends due to their opposing views on abortion
- 25% of women want to have fewer conversations about abortion with their significant others
- 58% of people said it's important that potential partners are open-minded on political issues
- 20% say they are more hesitant to have sex since the ruling
- 25% say they will use (or ask their partners) to use condoms more often
- 20% say it makes them more afraid of getting pregnant or getting someone else pregnant
Per Garcia, these numbers go to show how “the weight of our sex lives and our relationships became heavier” in a post-Roe world. One thing is clear: The majority of single Americans are taking reproductive justice very seriously — even the 25% of women who no longer wish to discuss it with their partners. “It doesn't mean that a quarter of women are disinterested in the issue of abortion. They just want to discuss it less,” Garcia explains. “I think that for some who are saying they want less discussion, it's too painful or too upsetting,” he says. “Then there are others who just don't want to debate it.”
Across the board, Singles In America participants recognized the significance of the Supreme Court decision — particularly those in Gen Z. Per the study, 27% of Gen Z responded that they’re more hesitant to date post-Roe; 20% said they are less likely to have casual sex; 28% said they’d ask their partner to use a condom more; and 26% responded that the decision made them more scared of an accidental pregnancy. “I think what we're seeing is young people understand the enormity of that change,” Garcia says. “Regardless of your views on abortion, this decision was going to change how we thought about sex and the potential outcomes of sexual events.”
Singles in America underscores what we already know: the personal is political. And when it comes to sex and dating, the political has become personal, too.
Dr. Helen Fisher, chief scientific advisor at Match
Dr. Justin Garcia, executive director at the Kinsey Institute, professor of gender studies, and scientific advisor at Match