Managing Religion and Morality within the Abortion Decision: Data from Qualitative Interviews with Women Obtaining Abortions in the U.S.

Lori Frohwirth, Guttmacher Institute
Michele Coleman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ann M. Moore, Guttmacher Institute

Abortion is proscribed by most major religious denominations in the United States, and most women in the U.S. claim a religious affiliation, yet religiously-affiliated women obtain abortions at similar rates to women without an affiliation. Previous research has linked religiosity with general anti-abortion attitudes, but little work has been done on how this potential conflict is managed and experienced by individuals. We describe the strategies employed by women obtaining abortions to cope with their religious and moral conflicts surrounding the decision. Data come from 49 in-depth interviews with women obtaining abortions at three U.S. clinics. Major themes that emerged during these discussions included personal exceptionalism, willingness to face God’s judgment, a belief that religious doctrines were incorrect in condemning abortion and questioning of religious identity. When viewed through the lens of the Social Ecological Model of behavior, these data inform the growing body of research describing and measuring abortion stigma.

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Presented in Session 108: Abortion