The abortion rate of Roman Catholic women is 30% higher than that of Protestant women, and evangelical Christian women are half as likely as others to have abortions, according to a national survey released Thursday.
Mixed feelings about contraceptives among Catholic women could explain their higher abortion rate, said Jeannie Rosoff, president of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the private reproductive health foundation that conducted the study.
“Religion appears to play some role in the abortion decision but not in the expected direction,” Rosoff wrote. “The groups which have the most ambivalence about the use of contraceptives probably don’t use contraceptives as well as other groups in the population.”
Contraception, as well as abortion, is forbidden by the Roman Catholic Church.
The study found that nearly one-third of all women who choose abortion report a fear of others discovering that they had become pregnant.
“Catholic women are more likely than those of other denominations to choose abortion for this reason,” the study said.
The findings emerged from surveys conducted by the New York-based institute in 1987 and 1988.
The abortion rate among Catholic women is also higher than that among Jewish women, the study said, and women who describe themselves as “born-again” or evangelical Christians were half as likely as other women to have abortions.
According to the study, nearly three of every 100 American women age 15 to 44 had an abortion last year, a figure that has remained constant for a decade.
The abortion rate among Latinas was 4.3%, while the rate among Anglo women was 2.3%. Non-white women, most of whom were black, had an abortion rate of 5.3%.
Only half the women were using contraceptives in the month they conceived, although three-quarters of those who were not using them said they had stopped using birth control pills from one to three months before they became pregnant.
The study arrived at its conclusions by comparing the number of women of each religion among abortion patients to the number of women of that religion in the general public.
One of the two research samples included 1,900 women nationwide who had abortions in 30 facilities. The other queried nearly 10,000 women who obtained abortions during 1987 at 103 clinics, hospitals and doctors’ offices.