Pew’s New Survey on Religious Groups Views on Abortion

Pew’s New Survey on Religious Groups Views on Abortion

Stream: Pew’s New Survey on Religious Groups Views on Abortion

According to a new survey by Pew Research, Unitarian Universalists are the strongest proponents of legal abortion, and Jehovah’s Witnesses the least supportive.

About 90% of Unitarians support abortion, beating out even atheists at 87%, though the difference is within the margin of predictive error of the 2017 survey. The variations in spiritual beliefs between many Unitarians and atheists is also not large.

The remaining top five groups with the most supporters are agnostics (87%), Jews (83%), and Buddhists (82%).

The top five least supportive groups are Jehovah’s Witnesses (18%), Church of God (29%), Assemblies of God (26%), Church of the Nazarene (27%), and Mormons (27%).

Except for Jehovah’s Witnesses, support for abortion is thus at least about 1 in 4 or larger, averaging 57% across all Americans.

Mainline Protestants in the Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church (USA), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Methodist Church all admit to favoring abortion at rates greater than the national average.

This is contrasted with traditional Evangelical churches, such as the Southern Baptist Convention and Churches of Christ and those already mentioned, all of which have less support than the average.

Members of the Roman Catholic Church support legal abortion at 48%.

Official positions

Pew has also compiled the official teachings on abortion from each of the religious groups. It is of interest to contrast these with what members of each group profess.

That nearly half of Catholics support legal abortion is most remarkable because the Catholic Church, alone among other groups, opposes abortion in all circumstances. The correct number of supporters, assuming parishioners are attentive to the Church’s formal rules, should be zero. The enormous discrepancy in practice can only be the result of a “law on the books” Catholic priests and bishops are largely happy to ignore.


All In

Finally are those groups who endorse legal abortion in all or most cases. Most mainline Protestant churches support abortion, giving only small to tepid caveats and warning the women who want to kill their offspring to first consider the matter deeply and seriously.

The Episcopal Church is a fair representative. It says “All human life is sacred from its inception until death”, and it admits the killing has a “tragic dimension”. But then it allows abortion “should be used only in extreme situations.” This leaves its members plenty of leeway in deciding what “extreme” means. As long as “individual conscience is respected”, the Episcopal Church says go ahead.


Three out of four surveyed would click here and read the rest.


  1. Gary

    This issue with this survey, as always, is the accuracy of denominational affiliation. Were the respondents consistently practicing members or were they self-identified folks who only show up at a service on the high holy days and think that’s what makes them an adherent? Denominations such as the Mormons and Assemblies of God tend to have more of the former and fewer of the latter. Not so with the more liberal denominations. So the subtext, as you point out, is that some groups do a better job than others at encouraging/practicing/demanding(?) commitment to their beliefs.

  2. Kevin

    Imagine what the world would be like if Mary had elected to abort her fetus because of extreme circumstances. Playing God, with even one life, your own, is dangerous business.

  3. Ken

    I wonder about the inconsistency of Church doctrines regarding matters of killing.

    The commandment is, so I’ve heard/read, ‘thou shall not murder’ (not, ‘thou shall not kill’). This is why soldiers can kill in war and still receive communion, etc., there’s a distinction between “killing” and “murdering.”

    When it comes to abortion, the Church has a tiny sliver of a window when an abortion is ok, when that’s incidental to, or required to save, a doomed mother’s life. Official Church guidance on the boundary line has been muddled by various should-be authoritative sources.

    There’s a somewhat infamous case re a Phoenix hospital that performed an abortion to save the mother’s life, and the local bishop revoked the hospital’s “Catholic” label/status (e.g. see: The hospital team did not take the abortion lightly and there were ethical consultations, including a nun as I recall. Their decision boiled down to one dead for sure is better than two dead with almost 100 percent certainty. They did not make this decision lightly.

    At the time, the Bishop’s letter condemning the action was published — and I still remember reading that [several times]. The Bishop’s letter reeked of an egomaniacal self-righteous indignation at being not invited to the “party” of evaluating that specific life-death situation and reaching a decision, a sentiment that was impossible not to notice, and it read like moral objectivity was frosted on as a cover to the perceived personal insult. I was left with the distinct impression this ego-eating-the-brain Bishop would’ve endorsed that abortion had he been consulted. That case is one you might like to research & judge for yourself as it does seem to show that the Catholic position is not quite razor sharp as some might like to believe.

    RELATED: Has abortion resulted in a good outcome? Apparently so. The aborted, it is supposed, if left to live & be raised by generally neglectful parents would grow up to commit crime. The data seems to bear this out, though, of course, how that’s interpreted [or will be interpreted] is predictable in advance from the analyst’s value system — which reveals considerable bias. One such rebuttal is:

    HUMAN FAILING: One would hope that analysts could set aside their moral values to objectively assess data — but what one observes, so easily and so clearly, is that people holding a moral/value position on a topic have difficulty, or simply cannot, accept that an act, or an outcome, they view as morally repugnant can have some, or even just one, positive side effect. Examples:

    – Global Warming alarmists will routinely get infuriated if it is pointed out that CO2 is a fertilizer and increased crop yields as a result is good; or that the absence of Arctic sea ice will lead to reduced CO2 production as ships can convey goods more efficiently; etc.

    – Abortion may lead to reduced crime and therefore result in a broad social benefit.

    The positives are there, or at least are arguably there — though that doesn’t necessarily justify the given action/outcome as “good,” which may well remain very “bad” regardless (i.e., the end [more crops; reduced crime] doesn’t justify the particular means per a given constituencies values). One observes time & again the inability to see, much less acknowledge, any “silver lining” in a “cloud” of moral turpitude.

    It’s one thing for politicians/political party’s to reflexively reject the other side’s policies — those are shameless bold-faced power plays in a game closer to anarchy than having few real rules.

    However, a truly objective researcher ought to be able to say something like, ‘I cannot morally justify abortion even though it reduces crime in society.’ But what we observe is the recurring human weakness that if a deed is deemed “bad” then everything associated with and from it must therefore also be “bad” (I cannot justify abortion, therefore damn the data/damn the evidence, everything that results is bad). We know that happens because we can predict with near 100 percent certainty how a given researcher will (or has, before we read their report) interpreted a given set of data based solely on knowing their values on the topic.

    That’s a shame. Because, in part, what that demonstrates is that the researcher doing that (probably subconsciously, often enough overtly) is trying to convey the “right” answer … by falsifying truth. The end might not justify the means … but in essence lying about the end to maintain a moral value is doing exactly the same end-justifying-means rationalization.

    Some of us are those researchers. We have no problem seeing that when “the other guy” does it (e.g. a Right-wing viewer observing a Left-wing newscaster spinning news to particular effect), but are surprisingly blind to the same manipulations when we do it.

    Think about that.

  4. c matt

    To a large extent, the “good” side effects of abortion are irrelevant to the moral question, assuming you subscribe to the moral premise that the ends do not justify the means. If you do not subscribe to that moral premise, then it present a totally different calculus, as do many other situations. For example, there is no debate that simply killing off the population under a certain poverty line would reduce poverty. A bullet is far cheaper than welfare.

  5. John Watkins


    “…but (we) are surprisingly blind to the same manipulations when we do it.

    Think about that.”

    Yes, Ken, please do think about that. Because that is what every one of your eternally relativistic posts does. You have never, to my knowledge, ever come down hard in an absolute fashion, on anything- except, of course, the need to be relativistic in all things. Which should mean that everyone else’s opinions should carry exactly the same weight as yours. In which case, why bother posting your ‘more-analytical-than-thou’ stuff? Or anything?

  6. But why the picture of hippies sleeping on Dam monument in Amsterdam in the early seventies?

  7. A found it: it was a protest on december 19 1980 against the just passed abortion law in the Netherlands.

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