Views of abortion vary widely among U.S. religious groups

January 30, 2018

More than four decades after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, most Americans (57%) still support the right of a woman to choose, according to a Pew Research Center survey released on January 22.

However, a substantial minority (40%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases—and within some U.S. denominations and religious groups, this figure is much higher.

Specifically, the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses (75%) and Mormons (70%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, according to findings of Pew’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study—a survey of more than 35,000 Americans in all 50 states.

The same holds true for members of some evangelical churches; including the Pentecostal denominations, Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) (77%) and Assemblies of God (71%), and America’s largest evangelical denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (66%). Indeed, nearly twice as many evangelicals say they oppose legal abortion as support it (63% to 33%).

By comparison, only 35% of those who are part of the mainline Protestant tradition say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, with 60% in support of keeping abortion legal. Members of the Episcopal Church (79%) and the United Church of Christ (72%) are especially likely to support legal abortion, while most members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the mainline Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (65%) also take this position.

Among those who wholeheartedly support choice? Unitarian Universalists (90%) and American Jews (83%) are much more supportive of legal abortion than the general population. And most people who have no religious affiliation – particularly atheists and agnostics (87% each) – also support abortion rights.

Research contact: info@pewresearch.org.

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