Religious Views on Abortion and Women's Right to Choose

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Religious Views on Woman's Autonomy
  • Public, Political and Religious Views on Abortion
  • The Continued Struggle for Women's Equality
  • Reasons Abortion Is Commonly Done
  • Methods of the Study
  • Findings and Concluding Thoughts


Very few Americans are undecided about abortion; most people are either on one side or the other, which makes abortion one of the most polarizing moral dilemmas. And yet, most people do not consider how painful the topic can be for women and couples who find themselves having to decide to terminate a pregnancy. Many opposing arguments towards abortion are derived from political, moral, and religious views. The most common reason why abortion is morally and religiously wrong is that at the beginning of conception, the fetus is seen as a human, and therefore killing a human is an atrocious crime. According to Dabbagh in Fetus as Human Being: Where is the Cut-off Point?, religious views on abortion state that a fetus is viewed as a human at 16 weeks. This illustrates the transition from an embryo to a human is directly correlated to who is controlling the conversation. Therefore, a person cannot resort solely to this theory to support the opposition of abortion; doing so is wanting and imperfect. Furthermore, personhood is determined by the ability to survive outside of the womb.

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Religious Views on Woman's Autonomy

If we continued with this logic that a fetus has the right to live, who gets to decide that a fetus is primary to the women’s life? If abortion is morally wrong because no one has the right to terminate or regulate one’s life in such a way, the moral and religious issue still lies because the woman is not considered to have honest and religious freedom in such away. In 1973 the United States Supreme Court affirmed in the case of Roe V. Wade that the ability to have a legal and safe abortion is a constitutional right. Most recently, in 1992, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner wrote in the decision over the case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 'The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.

It is continuously argued for why abortions are either right or wrong, but very few debates are surrounded around why women make the hard decision to go through with an abortion. What about what the women desire for her life and their future? In 2007 Supreme Court Justice Ruther Bader Ginsburg stated in her dissenting opinion in the Gonzales v. Carhart case, the inappropriate abortion restrictions infringe upon “a woman's autonomy to determine her life's course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.' [5] The decision to have or not to have an abortion is crucial to a women’s ability to be considered equal to her partner or her male counterparts and should be a decision that only she has the power to make. This kind of freedom should not be granted solely to males in society.   

Public, Political and Religious Views on Abortion

According to Gallup data since May of 2019, 25 % of American approve of abortion for any reason, while 53% agree under certain conditions, and 21 % says it is illegal in all cases.[6] When it comes to political identity, there is a growing partisan divide between Democrats, Republicans, and GOP. In a recent PEW survey, 82% of Democrats or those leaning towards the Democratic party stated that they support legal abortions in all or most cases while 32% of Republicans and GOP support legal abortion in all or most cases. When it comes to religious views on abortion, 77% of white evangelical Protestants say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while 83% of nonreligious affiliated Americans say abortion should be mostly or entirely legal.

The Continued Struggle for Women's Equality

Many Americans assumed that with this decision, it would open the door for overall women’s equality and autonomy; however, many feel that the fight has just begun. In 2014 Jones and Jerman published the Abortion Incidence and Service Availability In the United States, 2011, which found that in the year 2011, almost 1.1 million abortions were performed in the United States between women ages 15-44, at a rate of 16.9 %. Jerman and Jones also noted that during the period of study, 106 new abortion restrictions were implemented.

Despite the overwhelming amount of reasons women can and can’t have abortions, the decision should solely come down to the woman. There are various reasons why women seek abortions, and one should have the power to decide if one or more reasons have higher validation power than another. In the Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives, it was found that 74% of women feel as though having a child interferes with education, work, or the ability to care for other dependents. Younger women overwhelming feel unprepared to have kids, while older women consider their current responsibilities and obligations to other loved ones. 73% of women stated that finances were an issue, and 48% wish not to be being a single mother or prevent relationship problems.

Reasons Abortion Is Commonly Done

Multiple sources over time have come up with the same conclusion for why women seek abortions. It seems that age is the most significant factor for why women had has prior abortions. In recent research around abortion patients, it has been tested that 45% of patients admitted to having one or more abortions in the past, the older a woman is, the more likely she is to have an unplanned pregnancy. Other reasons are, being Black, having other children already, relying on insurance or financial assistance to pay for the procedure, and unforeseen circumstances. 

Overall when a women’s right to choose is stripped from her, her equality is threatened, and she is denied her fundamental right to do with her body as she sees fit. It has been proven throughout history that to take care of a child we need more than just love, having kids is a huge responsibility that many people feel they can’t take on. Who are we a society to infringe upon that right? Is it better for women to have children that they will abandon later because if that is the case, that is not religiously or morally conscious? In 2017 it was estimated that more than 442,995 children were in foster care, many due to the parent being financially unable or unfit to care for them. [11] Allowing women to have abortions is the choice for a better life for many involved. This research study explores the relationship between income, age, financial ability, and abortion in the United States to answer the following question: what are the factors that influence abortions?

Methods of the Study

This analysis utilizes data collected by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Since 1972 (GSS) collects information and keeps a historical record of the concerns, experiences, attitudes, and practices of residents who are (18years +) living in the United States. The GSS survey sample is randomly selected by using a probability design. The data used in this analysis is from the 2018 General National Survey (GSS). This detailed examination of age, finances, health insurance and abortion is based on answers from 2,327 respondents.

For this study the following dependent variables were considered.

ABANY respondents were asked should women have abortion if woman wants for any reason, and the scale was 0=IAP 1=yes 2=NO 8=DK and 9=N/A. ABFELEGL only Women were asked this questions should women be able to have legal abortions and the scale was 0=IAP 1=Should 2=Should not 3=Depends 8=Don’t know 9=no answer. ABHELP2 was a personal question for those taking the survey; respondents would help with paying for abortion and scale was 0=IAP 1=yes 2=NO 8=DK and 9=N/A. ABMELEGL Men only were asked should women be able to have legal abortions and the answer options were 0=IAP 1=Should 2=Should not 3=Depends 8=Don’t know 9=no answer. ABPOOR respondents were asked what if the woman is low income--can’t afford more children and had the following choices 0=IAP 1=yes 2=NO 8=DK and 9=N/A. ABINSPAY respondents were asked should people be able to use health insurance for abortion Ver Y and had the following options 1=People should be able to, 2=People should not be able to, 8=Do not know and 9=no answer.

To get better results an index variable was created and included, ABANY, ABFELEGL, ABHELP2, ABMELEGL, ABPOOR and ABINSPAY. A reliability test was conducted using the variables listed below (N=4) and ( the variables were found to be highly reliable (See Table 1). The ABFELEGL variables were not included in the reliability test because the question was administered for men and women separately and provided no overlap.

Findings and Concluding Thoughts

To test the hypothesis in this research study, a multiple regression analysis was used to test if the Abortion_index with AGE and Total Family Income predicted reason for abortion. The results of the regression indicated index variable explained 1.7% of the variance (R squared=.17, F=19.5).

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