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U.S. abortion data

The religion of women who have an abortion

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Studies dealing with the religion of U.S. women who had abortions:

  • 1994-5: The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research: Researchers S.K. Henshaw & K. Kost used a different measurement of abortion data: the "abortion index." For a given group, an abortion index of 1.0 indicates that women in the group have an per-capita number of abortions equal to the U.S. average; a value of 2.0 indicates that they are twice as likely to have an abortion.

    They sampled women at a group of abortion clinics and determined that the abortion index by religion was for:
    • Protestants: 0.69;
    • Followers of a religion other than Judaism and Christianity: 0.78;
    • Roman Catholics: 1.01;
    • Jews: 1.08;
    • Women who do not follow an organized religion: 4.02.

The researchers found that only 18.0% of abortion patients identified themsleves as "Born-again/Evangelicals," This compares to 46% of the general population. Also, 82% of abortion patients identified as other than "Born-again/Evangelicals" compared with 54% of all Americans. Born-again/Evangelicals are thus very much under-represented among those seeking an abortion. 1

  • 2001: The Alan Guttmacher Institute: They reported in 2001-JUL that 37.4% of all abortions are performed on Protestant women; 18% of all abortions are done on born-again Protestants. 2 Since "Born-again" believers constitute over 40% of the American adult population, they were thus very much under-represented among those women having abortions.

  • 2006: The Center for Reason: Responding to a claim by some conservative Christian leaders that abortion is an evil perpetrated by non-Christians, the Center -- a private research group -- decided to conduct a study to determine whether Christians have a fewer abortions per capita than do non-Christians. They determined that Christians have as many abortions per capita than do non-Christians. They analyzed state-by-state data -- perhaps from the CDC -- and found that the rate of abortion is the same in the most Christian segments of the population as it is in the least-Christian. However, the most highly Catholic segments of the nation showed significantly higher abortion rates. 3,4

    Their report was titled "The Landscape of Abortion." 5 Some reviewers have noted that the report contains complete information on their analysis techniques so that anyone can repeat their computations if they wish to confirm the results.

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Interpreting abortion data relating to religion:

These data need to be interpreted carefully. The abortion index is influenced by many variables, including:

  • The percentage of women in the religious group who are sexually active.
  • The percentage of sexually active women who do not use an effective contraceptive method.
  • The frequency of their sexual activity.
  • The type of sexual activity -- whether it is liable to result in pregnancy.
  • The percentage of pregnant women who wish to terminate the pregnancy.
  • The percentage of pregnant women who choose to have an abortion.
  • Truthfullness: These data show what the women say, not necessarily what they do or are. For example, twice as many adults "say" that they go to religious services regularly than actually do go.

For example, the average Roman Catholic teenager might be less likely to have access to accurate and comprehensive birth control information. All other factors being equal, this would increase the index for Roman Catholics. Similarly, conservative Protestant denominations (fundamentalist and other evangelicals) composed largely of born-again members, are very actively involved in reducing abortion access in the U.S. Their members might be too ashamed or embarrased to admit that they belong to these groups,

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. S.K. Henshaw & K. Kost, "Abortion patients in 1994-1995: Characteristics and contraceptive use," Family Planning Perspectives, Vol. 28, #4, 1996-JUL/AUG. Abstract at: Full report is at: This is a PDF file.
  2. J.L. Lambert & Fred Jackson, "Study shows high percentage of abortions performed on Evangelicals," Agape Press, at: Unfortunately, this reort is no longer online.
  3. "Christians Have as Many Abortions as Everyone Else, Catholics Have More," PR Web, 2006-MAR-12, at:
  4. Austin Cline, "Christian Abortion Rate as High as National Average; Catholic Rate is Higher," Agnosticism/Atheism, 2006-MAR-18, at:
  5. "The Landscape of Abortion," Center of Reason, 2006), at: Unfortunately, the Center's entire website is apparently offline.

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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Facts > here

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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated: 2010-JUN-12

Author: B.A. Robinson
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