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Survey: Few religious groups want Roe v. Wade overturned despite belief abortion morally wrong
Roe v. Wade has remained controversial in the four decades since the landmark Supreme Court decision.
January 16th, 2013
10:00 AM ET

Survey: Few religious groups want Roe v. Wade overturned despite belief abortion morally wrong

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) Forty years after the Supreme Court protected abortion rights in Roe v. Wade, a new survey finds that white evangelicals remain the only major religious group that supports overturning the landmark ruling, even though most such groups find abortion morally wrong.

Slightly more than half (54%) of white evangelicals, according to the Pew Research Center study, favor completely overturning the 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed a woman’s right to have an abortion. No other religious group, including white mainline Protestants, black Protestants and white Catholics, agreed with completely overturning the ruling.

In fact, substantial majorities of white Protestants (76%), black Protestants (65%) and white Catholics (63%) say the ruling should not be over turned, the survey found.

But support for keeping Roe v. Wade intact does not mean these religious majorities believe abortion is morally acceptable.

A majority of every religious group sampled white evangelicals (73%), black Protestants (58%) and Catholics (58%) and a plurality of white mainline Protestants (36%) responded that abortion was morally wrong. Those respondents who find it morally wrong are also overwhelmingly likely to support overturning the law, compared with keeping it intact 85% to 5%.

"What is interesting about this aspect of abortion attitudes is that while many people find abortion to be problematic, they may either personally feel it is wrong or favor greater restrictions. Overturning Roe v. Wade is not nearly as supported an idea," said Michael Dimock, director at the Pew Research Center. "The vast majority of evangelicals say they see abortion as morally wrong, but barely a majority say that they want to see Roe v. Wade overturned."

Dimock points out that while more than 70% of white evangelicals find abortion morally wrong, only slightly more than 50% say the ruling should be overturned. "There is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% of evangelicals who are personally opposed to abortion but don’t want to see this precedent changed," Dimock said.

The religiously unaffiliated were the only group in which more people say they find abortion morally acceptable rather than wrong. Twenty-four percent of the group said it was acceptable, compared with 20% who said it was wrong. Nearly half (43%) said it was not a moral issue.

White evangelicals (64%) are also the most ardent that abortion should be illegal in “all or most cases.” Mormons (63%) and Hispanic Catholics (53%) are the only other two religious groups where more respondents favor illegality in all or most cases.

“By contrast, nearly nine in 10 Jews say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do about seven in 10 Americans with no religious affiliation and 63% of white mainline Protestants,” the survey reported. “Among both black Protestants and white Catholics, 54% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.”

The establishment of a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy has been controversial in the four decades since the Supreme Court decision. The court’s ruling was not close, however. Seven of the nine justices voted in favor of making abortion a fundamental right under the Constitution.

Anti-abortion rights activists have demanded the ruling be repealed, a move that would likely allow states to decide whether to allow abortions or not. With the judiciary becoming more conservative during George W. Bush's presidency, some observers said the court under Chief Justice John Roberts would be anti-abortion activists best opportunity to relitigate Roe v. Wade.

"Roe v. Wade certainly did engage the pro-life movement by being so symbolic of an issue, but I don’t think the level of opposition to abortion has really shifted that much over time," Dimock said. "For a very contentious ruling, the public's view on it has remained fairly stable."

Frequency of religious services attendance is also an indicator of whether a poll respondent wants Roe v. Wade overturned. According to the survey, people who attend weekly or more support overturning the decision by 55% to 44%.

That number is substantially different among respondents who attend church less often. According to the survey, 76% among those don't support overturning the ruling, compared with 17% who do.

The Pew Research Center results are part of a study released with the 40-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade in mind. The telephone survey of 1,502 adults was conducted from January 9 through Sunday, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9%.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Abortion • Belief • Faith Now

soundoff (887 Responses)
  1. Reasonably

    Zzzz...huh? We haven't moved on? Oh ok – back to your squabbling. Just remember – if you don't want an abortion, don't have one.

    January 16, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • lol??

      Don't want full jails, don't arrest anybody.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Notmimi

      What an ignorant analogy. Abortion is legal, whatever people are in prison for is not. Don't like it? Don't have one.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • lol??

      Don't want insanity, don't be wicked.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Mirror Mirror

      Was being wicked the source of your insanity, lolly?

      January 16, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Notmimi

      Don't want to be like lol?? Abort, abort.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  2. John Stefanyszyn

    People may not find abortion morally acceptable but their belief in freedom of self rights comes first...to believe that it is right to be free to worship any god for one's self happiness.

    Man says that that his way is right.
    Man says that the One Way of the Creator is not "right".

    BUT IT IS ONLY CHRIST THAT WILL RULE.

    January 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Hum?

      You mean the same guy that got himself nailed up for talking bull?

      Christ can't help himself, so he is of no use to me.

      Beside's, he was sentenced to death. If he comes back, we will just kill him again.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      John Stefanyszyn

      You forget that iron is pig juice on Saturdays. Mama licked her barnyard that only she noticed. Her excited eyes were glazed with ducks although several swans played harpsichord.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Lol – you talk of religious freedom then spout your monotheistic view as the ONLY WAY.

      Oopsy.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Ted

      Wow, John S, your Christ sounds like quite the bossy ass hole. No thanks.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Sure.

      Jesus Christ lusts for power, does he?

      January 16, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Christ the 3rd

      Hold it, hold it, John boy, where did I say abortion is off the table? I might not agree that DAD should have given you all free will, but there is not a lot I can do about it is there? Quit putting a bunch of dumb rules out there and blaming them on me, get a grip?

      January 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • sam stone

      No, John, he's dead

      January 16, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  3. lol??

    A woman can live without her uterus. The child cannot. The womb was created for the child. The bullies on the court are anti-Will of God. That ain't gonna work out.

    January 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • David

      "The womb was created for the child. "

      They've created children that never saw a womb. A womb is not needed.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Yes but hot chickens do eat dust on crayon farms. Let's not forget that dental floss merchants are fried in grit.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Can I get a Womb With A View?

      Like an adult film from the inside out!!!

      January 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • lol??

      You smart guys gonna give david a pass on his comment?

      January 16, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Notmimi

      Why should we? He's right. Don't want an abortion, don't get one. You GET no say in what other people do.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • lol??

      You smart guys gonna give Notmimi a pass on his comment?

      January 16, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Notmimi

      Like your mommy gave you a pass on your education, except when she passed down her secret pole-dancing tips lol??

      January 16, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  4. Sometimes the ideal leads to disaster, and pragmatic is better

    Ask yourself why abortion was legalized, and you will understand why it ought to remain legal.

    Abortion was legalized because a LOT of women, especially young women, were getting mained or dying from botched abortions, done either by people with no legitimate qualifications, or by the women themselves. The number of deaths was pretty staggering.

    You see, prohibition does not work. It only creates a black market that is more trouble than legalizing.

    You can shriek about ideology all you want, but if you ban it, before long someone in your own circle of friends and family will be hurt or killed.

    I'm sure the gangs will welcome the opportunity for a new source of income. We can trust them to arrange safe medical care.

    January 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • lol??

      Well, warn your daughters about dancin' in Vegas, you moron.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Notmimi

      You oughta know. That's where you ended up, lolly. Preach it, sister!

      January 16, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Zingo

      Just because you can't get laid for the life of you, lolly, that doesn't mean others don't.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  5. Primewonk"

    From 2000 to 2006 the religious right (oxymoron) had the perfect storm. They owned the White House, Senate, House,and Supreme Court. Yet there was no governmental push to outlaw abortion.

    I wonder if those who call for abortion to be outlawed can figure out why?

    January 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Saraswati

      They can't even figure out why they lost the presidential election, so I'm going to guess No.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Johnny Blammo

      The Religious Right still hasn't figured out that the conservatives are just using them for votes and money, and once in power, right-wing politicians virtually NEVER deliver on any promise to religion. And religious voter fall for it again and again and again and again and again.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  6. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    "Survey: Few religious groups want Roe v. Wade overturned despite belief abortion morally wrong"

    Some common sense on this topic at last.

    So who again are the ONLY group that actively opposes reproductive choice? The same minority that opposes marriage equality and gun reform – white evangelical protestants.

    Go back to the 17th century fundies! That's where you belong.

    January 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • lol??

      A bully from Sodom speaketh. Tell us more about your "wegod". Is he wee?

      January 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @lol??

      what is this "wegod" which you so carefully quote? That is not an expression I am familiar with.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Notmimi

      The Vegas Jezzie lolly speaketh nonsense. Hide her dirty panites.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Zingo

      It's difficult to hide something that large, Notmimi

      January 16, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  7. William Demuth

    Thank God for abortion!!

    If we refuse to feed them, can't seem to educate them and really don't want them, why would we EVER insist a woman have one?

    In truth, our society would benefit if we took the opposite approach and discouraged unfit or incapable parents from reproducing.

    Crime goes down, incarceration goes down, poverty goes down and misery goes down when abortion goes up!

    IF YOU CAN’T FEED EM, DON’T BREED EM.

    If you want to talk about what we can do for those already here, I am all ears, but the abortion suppression policies of the last 50 years had done no good, and an immeasurable harm.

    In fact it’s a shame we can’t have some ex-post-facto abortions, starting with the Congress?

    January 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  8. lol??

    20% of the citizenry have died as the result of a botched decision.

    January 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Whose citizenry (where) and over what period of time? Please be more explicit and "do the math" for us.

      January 16, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Do you even know what you're talking about? Because I dont. What 20%?

      January 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • sam stone

      If they were not born, they were not citizens. Try to keep up, troll

      January 16, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • sam stone

      "20% of the citizenry have died as the result of a botched decision."

      Apparently, the vast majority of Christians do not believe it was a botched decision.

      F you and your hissy fit, punk

      January 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Do I commit genocide every time I jack it?

      January 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Looks like they missed one.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Notmimi

      Lies from the Vegas Jezzie. How novel.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Zingo

      Rational Libertarian is a spermacidal maniac.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  9. { ! }

    It isn't realistic to overturn Roe v. Wade. But it is built on a lie. The lie is that abortion is a "private" decision a woman makes. In 1933, my grandmother died of a botched abortion. My mother was nine at the time and her mother's death unhinged my mother to a serious extent. She never fully recovered. Three generations suffered because of that "private" decision. I also knew a young man whose girlfriend became pregnant. He was overjoyed. She exercised her "sacred" right to terminate. The result is that the young man committed suicide. Whatever other problems he had, the abortion was the trigger for his act.

    January 16, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Really??

      If this guy commited suicide, he had bigger problems than that.

      January 16, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Saraswati

      Rates of death and illness are far higher for pregnancy and childbirth than for legally performed abortions. Age of onset for alzheimer's is almost three years earlier, on average, for every pregnancy a woman carries to term. This is not a trivial health issue.

      January 16, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • ME II

      @(!),
      "In 1933, my grandmother died of a botched abortion. "
      This is an argument for Roe v Wade, in that making it illegal forces women to go to unreliable black-market clinics that "botch" the operation.

      January 16, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • SImran

      Are you wanting to state that all your issues in life are bcoz your grandmother went for abortion (BTW, did you check how abortion was performed in 1933 and who did she go to?) – and then, you must see a shrink. Go help yourself. Dont blame a dead woman for all your troubles!

      This young man would probably have committed suicide anyways, only by a different trigger and then, the girlfriend would have had to tend to a fatherless child!

      January 16, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • You're joking, right?

      Your grandmother's experience is exactly WHY abortion became legal, and is a warning of what will happen again. Abortion was illegal when she did it, so obviously law isn't going to help.

      But if you think that creating an environment where the women start dying again is a good idea, that people ought to experience what your family did, then hey, it's a free country, and you have the rightto be incredibly stupid if you wanto.

      January 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  10. lol??

    A woman can live without her uterus. The child cannot. The womb was created for the child.

    January 16, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • { ! }

      and when a "mother" hates the very life in her own womb, then evolution has apparently produced a freak.

      January 16, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Notmimi

      I'mm willing to bet that neither of you care once a child is born, just inflicting your thoughts into the rights of others. Shut up.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Jen

      Funny you say that, I was just reading an article the other day that women who have early hysterectomies are more likely to suffer dementia and have a shorter life expectancy. You can live without a uterus, yes, but they aren't just there for the baby, they have protective effects for the woman too.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  11. Banjo Ferret

    Tim the Destroyer of Worlds cares not about social issues. But, He often makes fun of those who spin archaic religious scripture into agendas of ignorance. Ferretianism is the one true religion. Repent! (banjoferret d c)

    January 16, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Lazy ferrets!

      Tim the Destroyer of Worlds? That lazy-ass good-for-nothing loafer!! He hasn't destroyed a world since he went over to destroy Planet Playtex, The Land Of Nubile Sorority Girls Gone Wild!!! Three millenia later Planet Playtex is still there, and nobody has heard anything but salacious rumors about Tim.

      No, this is a job for Stompy Bob, Kangaroo God of Stomping on Nincompoops, Dingbats, and Other Forms of Religious Looneys. Call in Stompy Bob to squish the stupid out of zealots . . . or at least to have fun trying.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  12. 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

    700,000+ believers per year in the USA have abortions, often after cult members don't follow their cult's rules.

    January 16, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • { ! }

      Well noted. Now look up the Doomsday Clock. Scientist developed this idea in 1947. Look it up. The hypothetical clock surmised how much time man had left based on nuclear proliferation, biological weaponry, global warming, and humanity's part in this. According to the clock, secular science and secular governments have brought us nearer extinction than religion ever will.

      January 16, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Really??

      Where science knows to stop, religion will push you over the edge.

      January 16, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Kev

      And 700,000 + is a majorly in what instance?

      January 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Kevin, not sure if your question is to me or that I fully understand it, but 700,000 is about 70% of all abortions performed each year in the USA.

      January 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Kev

      So the 700,000 + each year were specifically asked whether they believed abortion to be morally wrong, or was it based on if they were asked what their religious affiliation was, or how did this survey, whatever survey it was, get the results you posted?

      January 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Kevin, the numbers are from the Guttmacher (sp?) Inst!tute. I believe they tracked the religion of those having abortions.

      January 17, 2013 at 3:32 am |
  13. Science

    Science

    This doc-umentary states it has the smoking gun. Jan 9 2013
    PBS Nova Decoding Neanderthals doc-umentary
    It is in public schools in the US already !!!
    Why is this not in the bible ? The smoking gun!!!

    January 16, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  14. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    The reality of se-x, abortion, contraception and STD/HIV control: – from an agnostic guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill (9 % actual failure rate) and male con-dom (18% actual failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_contr_use.html, published in 2012 (e.g. See the table listed as

    "First-Year Contraceptive Failure Rates

    Proportion of women who will become pregnant during their first year of use, by method"

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":

    - (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
    - (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)

    Followed by:

    One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
    Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
    The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
    Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
    IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

    Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

    January 16, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Reality

      For those who are reading-challenged:

      The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill (9% actual failure rate) and male condom (18% actual failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

      January 16, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  15. rabidatheist

    It couldn't be that just as many religious people (if not more) go through this procedure than non-religious.

    January 16, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Notmimi

      If I remember right, 83% are women of religious faith. The most being Protestant. Prolly not the Church of the Self-Righteous Loll??'s, but still.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  16. Bob

    It is not up to you to decide if it is right or wrong. Let individual make their own choice. Their decision has ZERO effect on your life. You can punish them all you want in your imaginary afterlife, deal?

    January 16, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  17. Saraswati

    In talking to many Christians of this view I find they view abortion like lying when the Nazis are at your door...technically 'wrong' but right under some conditions.

    January 16, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  18. derp

    The look on that guys face says everything you need to know about religion.

    January 16, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  19. ME II

    The photo is a good example of why not to believe.
    With all the prayers to end abortion, surely God would have granted the request.
    "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." (Mk 11:24)

    January 16, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Penny Lane

      Everybody knows that women's health should be decided by sour-faced white wrinkle-scowl males who obviously have an unusually high percentage of neanderthal DNA.

      January 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  20. Honey Badger Dont Care

    The problem is that MANY do. Adn some of those organizations are very powerful. All it takes is one of these fundie nuts to spoil the whole point of the Const itution.

    January 16, 2013 at 10:47 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.