New research from Public Religion Research Institute explores Americans’ views on abortion rights.
Religion plays a significant role in today’s debates about abortion policy, but few Americans cite faith as the source of their own abortion views, according to a new report from Public Religion Research Institute.
The Institute found that just 31% of U.S. adults agree with the statement, “My religious faith dictates my views on abortion.” Agreement is much more common among those who believe abortion should be illegal (65%) than among those who support abortion rights (14%).
It’s even less common for Americans to look to religious leaders for in sights on the issue of abortion, researchers found. Just 16% of U.S. adults told Public Religion Research Institute that they turn to pastors, priests or other faith leaders “for guidance on how to think about abortion.”
For example, nearly 3 in 4 white evangelical Protestants (73%) agreed that faith dictates their views on abortion, compared to 33% of white Catholics and 26% of white mainline Protestants, according to Public Religion Research Institute.
White evangelicals also stand out for their opposition to abortion. Fewer than one-third of members of this faith group (27%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults overall hold that view.
“More granularly, 30% (of Americans) say abortion should be legal in all cases, 34% say it should be legal in most cases, 25% say it should be illegal in most cases, and just 9% say it should be illegal in all cases,” researchers wrote in the new survey report.
Along with white evangelicals, Jehovah’s Witnesses (27%), members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (32%) and Hispanic Protestants (44%) are notably less likely than the average American — and members of other faith groups — to believe abortion should be legal.
Public Religion Research Institute’s new report on abortion views is based on online interviews with nearly 23,000 U.S. adults that took place from March to December 2022.
Researchers noted that, for the most part, faith groups’ opinions about abortion remained steady throughout 2022, despite the major state-level policy shifts that came after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
Hispanic Catholics and Black Protestants were the exceptions, the survey report said, since support for abortion rights grew within these groups over the course of the year.
“Among Hispanic Catholics, support for legal abortion in all cases nearly doubled, from 16% in March to 26% in June and 27% in August, reaching a peak of 31% in December,” researchers wrote. “Similarly, support among Black Protestants for abortion being legal in all cases grew from 28% in March and 27% in June to 38% in August and 37% in December.”
Just as members of most faith groups believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, most people of faith support Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that was overturned.
“With the notable exception of white evangelical Protestants (61%) and Latter-day Saints (52%), less than half of all major religious groups support overturning Roe v. Wade,” Public Religion Research Institute found.
These findings help explain why religious freedom laws are being used to push back against the Supreme Court’s June ruling and new abortion restrictions. People of faith have argued that abortion bans are trampling their ability to live out their faith-based beliefs on abortion, as the Deseret News previously reported.
“There’s both a very rich history and current practice of folks seeing abortion care as a religious and moral calling,” said Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of the Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, to the Deseret News last year.
But the new report also shows why such arguments can be met with skepticism. As noted above, fewer than one-third of U.S. adults say their faith “dictates” their abortion views, including just 14% of Americans who believe abortion should be legal.
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