While surveys show that Americans remain more supportive of abortion access than they oppose it, the importance of religion in people’s lives often shapes their views on the topic, according to the experts.
So when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, many people with strong religious beliefs — especially Christian conservatives — applauded the decision.
“I truly believe in the mission of making abortion unthinkable in our lifetime,” Cristina Flores, 19, of the anti-abortion group Students for Life told UTEP.. “When abortion occurs, it is the murder of a human life.
Part of Students for Life of America, which has been around since 2006, the University of Texas at El Paso group was founded in 2019 and has about 20 members, said Flores, a sophomore who is studying writing. creativity and linguistics.
“We believe in the value of all human life, from conception to natural death,” added Flores, who was homeschooled and grew up in a Christian family.
According to a survey by Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts research on religion, culture, and public policy. This figure includes 25% who say it should be illegal in most cases and 8% who say it should be illegal in all cases.
Released on July 7, the inquest spanned two days following the court’s quashing of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey – the landmark decision that protected the right to abortion for nearly half a century.
But to what extent does religion influence our views on abortion?
Just under a third of Americans, or 31%, agree that their religious faith dictates their views on abortion, while 66% disagree, according to the research institute’s survey. .
The survey also shows that 65% of those who say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases agree that their religion dictates this view – compared to just 14% of those who say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, investigation shows .
How one perceives the importance of religion in their life also matters in forming their beliefs: 76% of those who say religion is the most important thing in their life agree that their faith dictates their views on abortion, according to the survey.
“The correlation between religious views and abortion is most strongly seen among white evangelical Christians,” said El Paso religious studies scholar Ann B. Horak. “Their views on abortion often align with their more traditional views on women and the family.”
A teacher who sits on several community boards, Horak said she has countless conversations with students and women in the organizations she volunteers at.
“In my experience, many young Catholics and many women in general within the Catholic Church may have their own personal antipathy towards abortion, but they are reluctant to say that their religious beliefs should influence civil law” , she said.
In the border region, Horak said, many Catholics know the struggles women face and the lack of support they often enjoy. This, she said, “makes them more understanding of the choices women sometimes make.”
But it’s not always the case.
Many strongly support religious teachings on the sanctity of human life and adamantly believe that life begins before birth – without exception.
When asked if she thinks anti-abortion laws should allow for exemptions, such as pregnancies resulting from rape, Flores of UTEP’s Students for Life group, said a definite “no.”
“Abortion is not going to undo the rape of a woman,” she said. “Abortion will not solve the problem.”
To the same question, Mario and Lucy, a devout Christian couple in their 60s who asked that their last name not be used for this story, said they might make an exception: when a pregnant child is involved.
“In the case of the 10-year-old girl who was raped, for example, I think I could put my religious teachings aside for that,” Lucy said, referring to a girl from Ohio who was raped. and had to cross state lines to Indiana for an abortion.
The case gained national attention after President Joe Biden referenced it in a speech on the abortion ban following the Roe v. Wade. A 27-year-old man from Ohio reportedly confessed and was arrested and charged with raping a minor under 13.
“In most other cases, especially when adults are involved,” Lucy said, “it’s wrong and against God.”
The Texas abortion ban makes no exceptions for rape or incest, although it does make exceptions when the abortion could save the pregnant person’s life or prevent substantial impairment of bodily function. major.
Mario said he would prefer to see more efforts put into revamping and improving the adoption process so that more children can be placed in loving homes and more resources are put into providing health care. , nutrition and education to the poor.
“We can’t just say we’re pro-life and not support babies and their families,” he said. “It is our duty and our calling by the church and by God.”
Religious affiliation also plays a major role, according to the survey: nearly three in four white evangelical Protestants (73%) say their religious faith dictates their views on abortion.
This compares to 33% of black Protestants; 33% white Catholic; 32% Hispanic Catholics; 26% Mainline White Protestants; and 20% of non-Christian religious Americans.
Influence of religious leaders
How much of this religious influence comes from the religious leaders themselves?
Fewer than one in five Americans (16%) say they turn to religious leaders for advice on how to think about abortion, according to the institute’s study.
But those who say religion is the most important thing in their lives (46%) are the most likely to agree that they look to religious leaders.
El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz said all life is sacred and only God can decide who lives and who dies.
“For this reason, the Catholic community has always been pro-life. Against the death penalty. Against war. Against abortion. For families. For women. For humanity,” Seitz said in a statement following Roe v. Wade.
About 80% of El Paso residents are Catholic, according to the diocese.
Seitz said the decision was a relief for many and that abortion is never the answer.
Stating that he understands the Supreme Court’s decision comes as a shock to many, Seitz said everyone “must work like never before to ensure that women are supported, promoted at all levels of society, empowered to welcome the gift of life, and never targeted or criminalized.”
He added that the church must continue to work to ensure that “families receive a living wage, access to affordable health care, education and work opportunities, pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrant”.
Gloria Sanchez, who was raised Catholic but does not consider herself particularly religious, says she does not attribute her anti-abortion views to her religion or the influence of religious leaders.
She, like others who have a more secular approach, calls her vision a human rights issue.
“Other than what the religion says, I just can’t understand it. It breaks my heart,” said Sanchez, a stay-at-home mom of two young girls aged 4 and 6. is not.”