Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Analysis of Pew Abortion and Religion Survey

On Monday, 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 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.


Yonmei said...

The basic motivation for being a pro-lifer is misogyny.

When you don't believe that women have individual reason and conscience: when you don't believe that women's health, women's lives, are intrinsically and individually valuable: when you perceive women as merely breeding animals that exist for the use of men, or machines that just pop babies out - then you're pro-life.

And it's a lot easier to justify this misogyny by referencing religion, rather than openly admitting, as you do on this blog, that you just personally hold women in such contempt, God's got nothing to do with it.

The other major factor in being pro-life has to do with fear of sex, or contempt for women having sex - it's why pro-lifers tend to oppose prevention of abortion by contraception, and talk about women "avoiding consequences", because they perceive pregnancy and childbirth as the appropriate penalty for a woman having sex, which she shouldn't be allowed to avoid. There's intrinsic misogyny in that attitude, but it's not just misogyny - there's a real fear of sex and women enjoying sex in there as well.

And of course for a lot of pro-lifers, particularly young pro-lifers who live in pro-choice countries and have never read much or gone anywhere outside their own little bubble, there's the simple fact that they're inexperienced and naive. They really don't know and don't want to know what kind of crap the real world deals out: they want it all to be prettified and nice, they really don't want to think about the kind of crap women go through in pro-life countries where, as pro-lifers claim they desire, the state has control of women's bodies: they certainly don't want to look back at how it was for women before the law changed making access to abortion legal.

Yonmei said...

Which is to say: there are certainly religious leaders who keep women in control by promoting pro-life values, denial of control and choice.

But it's not a particularly religious thing in itself, and indeed many religions which do not deny women individual conscience and choice, are actively pro-choice.

You have to hate and despise women to believe women mustn't be allowed the right to decide for themselves whether or not to have a baby: and while it's probably easier for men to hold this kind of hate of women, it's not exclusive to men, because being pro-life is all about what you think other people should do - it's got nothing to do with what you know is right for yourself.

Everyone is pro-choice for themselves: it's just a question of whether you believe other people have a right to decide for themselves, and will support that right even when you don't agree with their decisions. If you think women should be forced against their will, and don't respect women's right to make decisions, you're pro-life.

Yonmei said...

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.

Oh, and of course it's incorrect and abusive to refer to people who are pro-choice as "pro-abortion". said...

Yonmei, the "incorrect and abusive" language isn't coming from me. Any intelligent person who reads this blog with an open mind is going to see that your comments are nothing more than a stream of angry ad hominem attacks.

Yonmei said...

Yonmei, the "incorrect and abusive" language isn't coming from me.

Quite, but you can take responsibility for quoting the incorrect and abusive language used by Lifesite.

Any intelligent person who reads this blog with an open mind is going to see that your comments are nothing more than a stream of angry ad hominem attacks.

Pro-lifers do tend to self-define as "intelligent and having an open mind". Who knows why?

There's nothing ad hominem about pointing out that your belief women should be forced to produce babies against their will, and denied the right to choose to terminate or continue a pregnancy, is profoundly misogynistic.

I admit to anger. Hatred and contempt of women makes me angry: bullies make me angry.

Yonmei said...

The consequences of pro-life legislation:

Many doctors in Latin America are against abortions, and there are some who report their patients to the police after they have operated on women for whom complications have arisen - although this was not true in this case

"Fortunately the doctor was wonderful... he actually cared about me," the woman said. "I knew that if they found out what I'd done they could put me in jail. "I kept saying, 'I've just fallen over.' But the doctor knew." It was explained to the woman that the abortion had perforated her uterus, which was now full of pus and acid.

"'Where did they do this to you?', they kept asking. Then they gave me three hours to live.

"Even with the operation they thought I could die. My insides had been completely infected."

She said that as a result of the operation she has lost her uterus and can no longer have children.

"I'd really wanted to have another child, later on in life, but now it's impossible," she said. "I had a very complicated recovery. I kept relapsing and my internal organs kept reinfecting. I'm so lucky to be alive."

The abortion was performed by the preferred pro-life practitioner: an unqualified woman in a shack. The cause of the abortion was standard pro-life propaganda: the woman had been misinformed about birth control pills.

Why don't you front-page pro-life stories like these, since this is the world you want to create?

Yonmei said...

And this is the world you want Kenyan women to be forced to live in in perpetuity, condemned to die by the Constitution without hope of social justice:

Sarah was 14 years old when she died from complications from an unsafe abortion. She lived in a one room shack in the heart of Kibera — Kenya's largest informal settlement — with her mother, four siblings and two nieces. Her father had died of AIDS and TB. Her mother, Evelyne, is HIV-positive and has permanent limited mobility due to spinal TB.

In order to earn money to feed her family, Sarah was forced to leave school at age 13. When she couldn't find work washing clothes she would have sex with men for money. She would earn 100 shillings [less than $2.00] from these encounters to buy food for the family.

When Sarah became pregnant, a woman in Kibera advised her to get an abortion. Sarah procured an unsafe abortion from the woman's friend, and soon developed a dangerous, life-threatening infection which left her in great pain and bed-ridden for a month. The cost of emergency healthcare and the fear of arrest kept her from going to a hospital. Sarah and her mother were afraid to talk to anyone about how sick she was because of the risk of arrest and the fear of community condemnation.

Sarah died at home on June 29, 2009. Her family now goes for days without food and survives on hand-outs from neighbors in Kibera. In Harm's Way

This is the Kenya you want: these girls dying is your pro-life goal. Why aren't you front-paging these stories? How can it embarrass you to make public what you feel the world should be like for women?

Yonmei said...

The pro-life world: Induced abortion is one of the most performed medical interventions. Making abortion illegal does not reduce the number of abortions. 20 million of the 42 million abortions performed annually are illegal and unsafe. Legalization of abortion can prevent unnecessary suffering and death of women.

Worldwide more than 1/3 of all pregnancies are unplanned. Every year nearly 1/4 of all pregnant women worldwide choose to have an abortion. The legal status of abortion makes little difference to overall levels of abortion incidence. Where illegal, most abortions are done with unsafe methods. Where illegal, it is primarily women without financial means who take recourse to unsafe abortion methods, resulting in the death of a woman every 8 minutes.

At the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, unsafe abortion was recognized as a major public health problem. The WHO estimates that 20 million of the 42 million pregnancies which are terminated by induced abortion every year are performed under unsafe conditions and in an adverse social and legal climate, resulting in approximately 70,000 deaths each year due to infection, hemorrhages, uterine injury and the toxic effects of agents taken to induce abortion. Women on Waves

How much must you hate women to want all 42 Million abortions performed annually, to be made illegal and unsafe? To want the death rate from illegal abortions doubled?

Anonymous said...

*reading the blog*

Great blog, Secular. =)

I can understand why they feel the religions are important to them. In my opinion, I think it is okay to have both religious and secular reasons. I really don't like it when hardcore pro-lifers think it is too oxymoron to be pro-life Democrat or pro-life non-Christian. Ugh. =/

Yonmei said...

I really don't like it when hardcore pro-lifers think it is too oxymoron to be pro-life Democrat or pro-life non-Christian. Ugh. =/

Exactly. Basically it's just all about the misogyny. While Democratic politicians are a bit less into getting votes by being misogynistic than Republicans, and it's tougher to be misogynistic when you can't just hide behind God, still : misogyny is cross-party and independent of religion.