The strength of a young woman's religious beliefs doesn't affect her decision on whether or not to abort a premarital pregnancy, according to a new study.
However, women who identified themselves as conservative Protestants - or even went to school with many conservative Protestants - were less likely to have abortions than mainline Protestants, Catholics, or Jews, Dr Amy Adamczyk found.
Adamczyk, of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Centre, City University of New York, pointed out that conservative Protestant sects, for example Evangelicals, Pentacostals, and Charismatic Christians, "really promote motherhood even at the cost of academic and career aspirations. It's pretty much put on a pedestal."
So for these young women, she added, it was probably much more acceptable to choose unwed motherhood than an abortion.
How the study was done
While the influence of religion on attitudes toward abortion has been studied extensively, Adamczyk notes in her report, less is known about how it affects young women's actual behaviour.
To investigate, she examined data on 1 504 women who were 14 to 26 years old when they discovered that they were pregnant. None of the women were married, and 25% reported having aborted the pregnancy. According to Adamczyk, this is likely an underestimate.
As reported in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, the researcher found no effect of a woman's "personal religiosity" - how involved she was with her religion, how frequently she prayed, and how important she perceived her religion to be - on whether or not she decided to have an abortion.
As mentioned, though, she did find that conservative Protestants were less likely than non-Christians, Catholics and mainline Protestants to report having chosen to have an abortion.
Type of school also plays a role
She also found that women who went to or graduated from private religious schools were more likely to have opted for abortions than did those who went to public school.
There are several possible explanations, the researcher said, for these women's decisions: the social and academic penalties of having a child out of wedlock may have outweighed any sanctions against abortion put forth by her school or religious sect.
"Maybe enrolling in a Catholic school is more of an indication of your educational aspirations and your parents' income than 'oh, I'm devoutly Catholic'," Adamczyk added.
Plenty of students who go to Catholic school aren't Catholic, she added, and these students may also belong to more affluent, educated families who can afford the tuition - and who also tend to hold more liberal attitudes. – (Reuters Health, June 2009)
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