Religious women are less likely to get abortions than their secular counterparts, according to a new study.
The study, led by Amy Adamczyk, PhD, of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Jacob Felson of William Paterson University, showed that religious women preferred a no-abortion rule because they are more likely to lead a sexually conservative lifestyle, not because they have stronger pro-life attitudes.
For the study, the research team used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
They measured sexual behaviour and out-of-wedlock pregnancy to religious and denominational affiliation. The study used multiple religion measures with longitudinal data to examine the influence of religion on abortion behaviour.
Results showed that religious women were less likely to obtain an abortion than secular women, partially because they are less likely to become pregnant before marriage.
Among those who become pregnant before marriage, religious women are more likely than secular women to take the traditional religious path and marry the father of the child, rather than get an abortion.
The authors said that because religious women lead a sexually conservative lifestyle, they are less likely to find themselves pregnant and without a potential marriage partner, when abortion may be a particularly appealing option.
Also, religious women are more likely to get married if they become pregnant, they added.
"Religious influences on attitudes are much more powerful than religious influences on behaviour. While religion is the main reason for differences in abortion attitudes, religion is a relatively minor reason for differences in abortion behaviour," the authors said.
The study is published in the March 2008 issue of the journal Social Science Quarterly.