A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Abortions: Comparing Catholic and Protestant Women


Q: Do Catholic women get abortions more frequently than Protestant women?

A: Catholics are slightly more likely to get an abortion than Protestants, according to a 2000-2001 survey.

FULL QUESTION

I’ve seen various statements from the Guttmacher people about the religions of women getting abortions, which claim that Catholic women get abortions more frequently than Protestant women. Where do the Guttmacher people get their information? Do clinics supplying abortions ask their clients what their religious beliefs are? Are there people with clipboards asking women leaving the clinic about their religious beliefs?

FULL ANSWER

The survey, the latest conducted by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, was completed by more than 10,000 women. Staffers in hospitals, clinics and physicians’ offices where abortions are performed distributed the questionnaire. The Guttmacher Institute, which researches sexual and reproductive health worldwide, says it used the survey data along with data on the number of abortions performed nationally to estimate abortion rates and the size of certain demographic groups. The institute found that more Protestant women obtained abortions than Catholics: Forty-three percent of women over age 17 in the 2000-2001 survey said they were Protestant, while 27 percent said they were Catholic. But Catholics were more likely to get an abortion: The abortion rate for Catholic women was 22 per 1,000 women; the rate for Protestants was 18 per 1,000 women, according to study author Rachel K. Jones.

Overall, 78 percent of women said they had a religious affiliation. (Besides those who marked that they were “Catholic” and “Protestant,” 8 percent said they belonged to “other” religions.) And the remaining 22 percent said they had no religious affiliation. Guttmacher also reported that 13 percent said they were evangelical or “born-again,” and three-fourths of those had identified themselves as Protestant. Those who said they were Jewish were too small in number for analysis and were grouped with the “other” category, Jones says.

The groups that were the most likely to have an abortion were those affiliated with “other” religions or no religion at all, with abortion rates of 31 and 30 per 1,000 women, respectively.

Sources

Jones, Rachel K. and Jacqueline E. Darroch and Stanley K. Henshaw. “Patterns in the Socioeconomic Characteristics of Women Obtaining Abortions in 2000-2001.”

The Alan Guttmacher Institute. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Vol. 34, No. 5, Sept./Oct. 2002.