The Corner

Politics & Policy

What the Polls Say about Catholics and Abortion

Elsewhere on the site, I dispute the claim, made in this instance by Catholics for Choice but widely expressed, that the vast majority of American women are pro-choice. The organization also said that most Catholics side with them. As with all things about abortion and public opinion, the truth is: It depends.

A recent Marist poll for the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, gives us some relevant data. Self-described Catholics are closely split on whether they describe themselves as pro-choice (49 percent) or pro-life (48 percent). “Practicing Catholics” are heavily on the pro-life side (64 to 33 percent). Non-practicing Catholics are nearly a mirror image (64 to 34 percent pro-choice).

The poll also gives respondents six options for abortion policy. Fifty-one percent of Americans pick the three relatively pro-life ones, compared with 53 percent of Catholics and 67 percent of practicing Catholics but only 42 percent of non-practicing Catholics. (The softest pro-life position of the three holds that abortion should be prohibited with exceptions, at most, for cases of rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s life.)

So no, there’s not a clear pro-choice majority of Catholics. But these also aren’t numbers that pro-life Catholics can brag about.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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