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Levels of support for abortion reflect religiosity of population, global survey suggests

14 July 2023

ALAMY

A model is seen on a display outside Planned Parenthood in Western Pennsylvania, United States, where protesters were handing out anti-abortion pamphlets. The US has one of the starkest disparities between attitudes to abortion among those on Left and Right

A model is seen on a display outside Planned Parenthood in Western Pennsylvania, United States, where protesters were handing out anti-abortion ...

A GLOBAL survey of attitudes towards abortion has revealed that people’s views were closely aligned to their religious commitment. Countries where more people say that faith is important to them are much less likely to have legalised abortion.

In Nigeria, where 99 per cent of people said that faith was important, only eight per cent said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. In Sweden, where just 20 per cent said that faith was important, 95 per cent of people supported legal abortion.

There were some countries, however, which defied the link between faith and support for abortion. In India, although 94 per cent said that religion was important to them, 59 per cent also supported legal abortions.

And, in the UK, three-quarters of people linked to a religion also supported legal abortion, although of those not affiliated to a faith group, 94 per cent supported legal abortion.

The survey was carried out in 24 nations by the Pew Research Center in the spring. It also found that those who tended to identify as left-wing were more supportive of abortion than those who said that they supported Right-leaning political parties and policies.

The country with one of the starkest disparities between attitudes to abortion among those on Left and Right was the United States, where just 29 per cent people who supported Right-leaning parties and politics were in favour of legal abortion, compared with 91 per cent of those on the Left.

Last year, a US Supreme Court decision ended the constitutional right to abortion (News, 1 July 2022). Overall in the US, however, 62 per cent said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. This figure had not wavered by much in recent years, Pew reported.

Majorities in most countries supported legal routes to abortion. In Europe, Poland had the highest number of people who thought that abortion should be illegal: 36 per cent.

Abortion rules are more restrictive in countries where support for it is lower. In Nigeria, Indonesia, and Brazil — countries with the lowest support for abortion — it is only permitted when a woman’s life is at risk.

The survey also found that women were significantly more likely than men to say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

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