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Religiosity and Abortion



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The shocking murder of George Tiller has generated some media interest in other stories dealing with abortion. Today MSNBC is reporting the release of a new study which shows that when confronted with an unplanned pregnancy, women who attended religious schools are more likely to have an abortion. While this is an interesting finding, many observers are probably reading too much into the results of this study. The full text of the journal article is not available online. However, from media reports, it is unclear whether the study measures attendance at a religiously affiliated elementary school, high school, or college. Furthermore, it is not exactly a secret that both the curriculum and culture at many religious schools differ very little from their secular counterparts.

However, the study finds that conservative protestants were less likely to report having an abortion. There also seems to be some evidence that more religious women in general were less likely to have had an abortion. These results are consistent with a study that appeared in Social Science Quarterly in 2008. It found that religiosity had little impact on how women chose to resolve crisis pregnancies. However, religious women were less likely to have abortions because they engaged in less sexual activity outside of marriage and were more likely to get married if they conceived out of wedlock.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media has little interest in these findings. The media is typically eager to report any study that places religiosity in a negative light. However, any research which documents positive results from conservative social values typically receives scant attention.

— Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama and a visiting fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.



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