On Monday, LifeNews.com featured an article entitled "Poll: Religion Key in Shaping Abortion Opinions, Mostly for Pro-Life People." While I don't necessarily agree that it showed religion to be "key," I did find the data to be quite interesting. Of course, raw data only takes us so far; we have to interpret it.
45% of pro-lifers identified religion as the most important influence on their stance. That may seem like a lot, but compare it to the usual pro-abortion message, in which "anti-choice" and "devout Christian" are presumed synonymous.
A secular pro-lifer is one who relies on secular justifications for the pro-life position. Christians can be secular pro-lifers. (My shorthand: if you would still be pro-life if you lost your faith, you're a secular pro-lifer.) Based on this poll, at least 55% of pro-lifers are secular. But it's likely more: the 45% who identified religion as the most important reason didn't identify it as the only reason.
Still, it's undeniable that the pro-life side relies more on religion than the opposition does: only 9% of abortion advocates identified religion as the most important influence on their view of abortion. Pew doesn't tell us why pro-lifers are more likely to say that religion is the most important reason for their stance. But we do know that this isn't a simple case of obedience to pastors: survey participants reported much more frequent preaching on the topic of poverty than abortion, but few identified religion as the most important influence on their views of poverty.
My guess? Two things. First, the discrepancy can be explained by the fact that there just aren't that many vocally pro-abortion religions. The Unitarian Universalist church is probably the most prominent, but it isn't near large enough to command 45% of abortion advocates. Pro-choicers rarely rely on religion because, statistically speaking, they're likely to be adherents of religions that are either neutral or pro-life.
Second, churches are providing Christian pro-lifers with a supportive community. Fighting to end poverty is popular; fighting to end abortion is not. In an uphill battle that at times seems unending, religion is a source of comfort and perserverance.
This second explanation goes a long way toward explaining one of the most troubling findings of the survey: 85% of atheists are in the pro-abortion camp. The 15% of atheists who are pro-life or undecided need the support of a strong pro-life community if they are to make their voices heard. That's why the work of SecularProLife.org is so important.
Overall, the survey found that the three most important factors in abortion stance were religion (26%), education (23%), and personal experiences (17%). Of those, education is the one on which we can have the most influence. Please help us educate people of every faith and no faith on the atrocity of abortion.