While most Americans (57%) are supportive of legal abortion, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey, a substantial minority (40%) says abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Within some U.S. denominations and religious groups, this figure is much higher.
The new survey by the Pew Research Center about views of abortion among different religious groups shows interesting results. Unitarian Universalists are at the top of the “Americans’ views on abortion” list with 90% of those who support abortion rights. After them, there are two expected groups, atheists and agnostics with 87% supporters of abortion.
Prior to Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, 30 states prohibited abortion without exception, 16 states banned abortion except in certain special circumstances (e. g.: rape, incest, health threat to mother), 3 states allowed residents to obtain abortions, and New York allowed abortions generally. The Court ruled 7–2 that a right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman's decision to have an abortion, but that this right must be balanced against the state's interests in regulating abortions: protecting women's health and protecting the potentiality of human life.
Though abortion is a divisive issue, more than half of U.S. adults take a non-absolutist position, saying that in most – but not all – cases, abortion should be legal (33%) or illegal (24%). Fewer take the position that in all cases abortion should be either legal (25%) or illegal (16%).
Pew Research Center states that among those who do identify with a religion, the majority view about abortion among members of a particular group often mirrors that group’s official policy on abortion. This is the case with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church) and the Southern Baptist Convention – both churches oppose abortion, as do most members of those churches.
At the bottom of the “Americans’ views on abortion” list are Jehovah’s Witnesses with 75% and Mormons with 70% members who say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
There are, however, cases where the views of a church’s members don’t align with its teachings on abortion. For example, nearly half of Catholics (48%) support abortion rights, despite Church doctrine rejecting it entirely. Indeed, among all those who are part of the evangelical tradition, nearly twice as many say they oppose legal abortion as support it (63% to 33%). Also, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons have doctrinal positions against abortion, but 18% and 27% of believers don’t accept those positions.
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