White evangelicals oppose abortion; all other religious groups support him

(RNS) — A number of polls in recent days have shown that a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal; a new survey from Pew Research is no exception.

The large survey of 11,044 Americans, released Friday, May 6, shows that 61% of respondents said abortion should be legal in most or all cases – little change from 1995, when 60 % said the same thing.

But contrary to what many may assume, abortion opponents are not necessarily all religious. In fact, the country’s many religious groups have widely varying views on the legality of abortion.

The only religious group that overwhelmingly opposes abortion is white evangelicals, 73% of whom say abortion should be illegal. Many white evangelicals celebrated earlier this week when a leaked draft opinion showed a majority of Supreme Court justices willing to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate women’s constitutional right to abortion. (The actual decision is expected in June.)

“White evangelicals are generally opposed to legal abortion, while ‘non-religious’ are broadly supportive, but the majority of groups say it should sometimes be legal, sometimes not” Graphic courtesy Pew Research Center

White evangelicals are also much more likely than other religious groups to say life begins at conception, the survey found. An overwhelming number of white evangelicals – 86% – said the statement that the fetus is a person with rights reflects their “extremely well” or “rather well” beliefs.

But other Christian groups, even those considered very pious, such as black Protestants, are much more supportive of abortion rights. Among black Protestants, only 23% said abortion should be illegal most or all of the time; 66% said they think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

On the issue of early life, black Protestants also differed from white evangelicals. Only 38% of Black Protestants said human life begins at conception.

“They are both highly religious groups,” said Besheer Mohamed, senior fellow at Pew Research, referring to white evangelicals and black Protestants. “But their views on abortion are very different.”

“Majority of adults say abortion should be legal in some cases, illegal in others” Graphic courtesy Pew Research Center

“White evangelicals are more likely than other Christians to say religion is very important in shaping their views on abortion” Graphic courtesy Pew Research Center

“Substantial support for legal abortion if pregnancy threatens woman’s health” Graphic courtesy Pew Research Center


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But perhaps the biggest misconception about religious groups is the widely held view that Catholics universally oppose abortion rights. While the Catholic Church has always opposed all forms of abortion – and American bishops have made it a defining teaching of the Church – the Pew survey shows that 56% of Catholics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Only 44% of Catholics say they are “extremely” convinced that life begins at conception.

“The bishops tried to convince their own people and failed,” said the Reverend Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior analyst for Religion News Service. “Catholics don’t listen to bishops.”

Religious ‘no’s – American adults who describe themselves, religiously, as atheists, agnostics, or “nothing in particular” – were the most supportive of legal abortion. Eight out of 10 say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Atheists, a small subgroup among “nones”, were the only group where a majority said abortion should be legal in all cases, without exception.

The Pew survey did not break down religion for minority faiths, such as Jews and Muslims. But a new study released Thursday by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding finds that 75% of American Jews and 56% of American Muslims think abortion should remain legal.

"A slight majority of Muslims, like Catholics, support legal abortion in most cases" Graphics Courtesy ISPU

“A slight majority of Muslims, like Catholics, favor legal abortion in most cases” Graphic courtesy ISPU

The survey, conducted by market research firm SSRS among 2,159 respondents (807 of whom were Muslim), posed a similar question to Pew: Do you think abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases or illegal in all cases?

The survey found that young Muslims were more likely than Muslims aged 50 and over to believe that abortion should be legal in all cases.

“The wider society may think that Muslims are less supportive of legalized abortion, but that’s clearly not the case based on this data,” said Meira Neggaz, executive director of the Institute for Policy. social and understanding.

That said, among all religious groups, as among all Americans, few have taken an absolutist position on the legality of abortion. Even the most anti-abortion people said there are times when abortion should be legal and even the most pro-legal abortion people said there are times when abortion should not be allowed .

“A commonality between these groups is that a significant number of them see the issue of abortion in shades of gray,” the Pew survey found.

For example, a majority of all religious groups, including white evangelicals, said abortion should be legal if the pregnancy threatens the life or health of the woman. And all religious groups, including 56% of white evangelicals, said the length of a woman’s pregnancy should matter in determining when abortion should be legal.

Americans are generally more likely to favor abortion restrictions later in pregnancy than early in pregnancy.

The Pew survey had a margin of error of 1.5 percentage points for the entire study.


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