Thursday, August 15, 2013

Abortion and Morality

by Edd Doerr

A Pew Rsearch poll released on August 15 shows that 49% of US adults consider abortion to be morally wrong, while 15% consider it to be morally acceptable and 23% regard it as not being a moral issue (Yes, I know that adds to only 87%, but that is what Pew reports). White evangelicals lead in saying that abortion is immoral, followed by Hispanic Catholics and Black Protestants. Only 25% of the religiously unaffiliated, with white mainline Protestants (38%) and white Catholics (53%) somewhat less so, agree. The poll also showed that approval increases with one's amount of education. This poll is largely worthless for several reasons.

1. Abundant polls for years have shown that opinion varies all over the map depending on the reason for an abortion. Large majorities approve of abortion in cases of rape, incest, threats to a woman's life or health, or severe fetal deformity. Other reasons are approved to lesser degrees. Approval or disapproval varies according to the stage of gestation at which the procedure is performed. The later the procedure the stronger the disapproval. Too often not considered in discussions of the issue is that about 90% of abortions are performed during the first trimester, and about 99% by 20 weeks. Procedures after 20 weeks are performed only for serious medical reasons. Before 14 or so weeks abortions are far safer for women than continuing pregnancies to term, particularly for women under the age of 18.

2. Moral approval or disapproval is irrelevant. What is relevant is what is legal. Roe v Wade in 1973 dealt with legality, not morality. Today's conservatives and Republicans confuse the two, and have pulled out all the stops in trying to either outlaw abortion altogether or throw so many barriers in the way that abortion becomes less and less available and more costly, particularly for poorer women.

What is important is the religious freedom, rights of conscience, and health of individual women. Transient or permanent majorities in legislatures, especially as they are predominantly male, should not be making the rules and decisions for individual women and the medical personnel who care for them. Every one who supports women's religious freedom and rights of conscience must get active in defending these rights.

(Edd Doerr is president of Americans for Religious Liberty --

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