The question for the graph is “should abortion should be legal in all cases / most cases vs illegal in all cases / most cases.

Source: Patheos and U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, June 2008

If the issue of abortion were the only issue, maybe Evangelicalism is the second best option. Either way, it is hard to believe where mainline Protestants and Catholics are. I am sure that the postmodern Christians (or the late Emergent crowd) would be more disappointing still.

What observations do you have?

Do you think that this statistic is a positive sign for Evangelicals?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    28 replies to "Open Discussion: Across the Spectrum on Abortion and Religion"

    • C Michael Patton

      Sorry, I added the question to the top.

    • cheryl u

      Thanks, CMP.

      The statistic for Evangelicals is certainly better than for mainline churches. But I guess I would have to know how the statistic compares to what it was say 5-10 years ago before I would be abe to say if it is really positive or not. I would think it would depend a lot on which way the ratio is going for Evangelicals more than how they compare to the other groups polled.

    • Denny

      It is interesting that Buddhists who would not want to harm living things would be in favor of abortion.

    • Cadis

      How could this be positive?
      A third of all Evangelicals think that abortion should be legal?? I thought a certain thrust of Evangelicals was to influence political and social enviroments..looks like they are flunking… maybe Evangelicals are being influenced more than they are influencing.
      33 %.. egad! I thought every serious Christian, Evangelical or not was anti-abortion??!! I thought every serious Christian political or not was anti-abortion!??

    • Michael

      Wow you really want a post with 500 responses???

      Anyhow it might be slightly off topic though it relates. I’ve been thinking of writing a article on the paradox of Evangelical legal philosophy. Most Evangelicals are strict constructionists who believe that the Constitution should be interpreted literally as it would have be understood at the time it was written. The idea of strict constructionalism, along with stare decisis, (the idea that past cases are binding on future cases) is a lynch pin of a philosophy called legal positivism. Legal positivism holds that the law is ultimately whatever the sovereign says it is. Positivism holds that a law is still a law even if it is immoral. This contrasts with another legal school of thought, Natural Law Theory, holds that a law that violates the natural law (which abortion undoubtedly would) is not a law at all and should not be followed.

      Ultimately most Evangelicals believe that abortion should be illegal because it is immoral, yet the legal philosophy they support allows for no such moral determination. A speech a couple years ago at the Vatican by Justice Antonin Scalia (A Catholic) demonstrates this perfectly. Scalia indicated that if the United States government legally passed a law declaring abortion to be legal he would enforce it (his current problem with abortion’s legality is the method it was legalized, not the legality itself). According to Scalia the best he could do would be to try to convince others of it’s immorality such that they would vote to illegalize it again.

      Our current legal and political philosophy in this country ultimately leaves no room for any greater morality then that of the masses, even when it comes to protecting human life. As a result given our countries system and your poll results abortion should be legal. The only other option would be to change the system, and I’m not sure what system would be better to be honest (theocracy has been tried and failed miserably). As Winston Churchill said “Democracy is the worst system of government, save all the others”.

    • cheryl u


      I agree with you that those statistics are appalling. As I said in my above post, the only reason I would find them encouraging at all is if they improved from a few years ago. That they are better than mainline churches, is I suppose a good thing as a comparison. But on their own they are appalling for sure.

      I think in the last few years I have sort of heard everything and I somehow find it hard anymore to be shocked by anything a Christian or the Christian community says or does. Pretty sad commentary on the state of things, isn’t it?

    • John

      So I take it they randomly sampled the population, then asked them to identify what religion they identified with. But “evangelical” is the only category which isn’t really a denomination so much as a statement that “I am not liberal”. If they’d separated Orthodox Jews from Jews, or Traditional Catholics from Catholics, like Evangelicals separates out from Protestants, I presume we would get the same distinctions.

    • #John1453

      John in post #8 makes a good, valid point.

      Michael in post #6: where did you get your definition of “legal positivism” from? I’m curious as it’s not one I’ve ever read.


    • j

      Something perhaps overlooked here is that the poll wasn’t about what a person thinks is right (or thinks their religion thinks is right). It was about what a person thinks should be Legal. Often there is overlap, of course, but the different religions and traditions in them also have different approaches to involvement with government, and to the concept of legislating morality.

      It would be interesting to repeat the survey with the questions: Is abortion murder? If abortion is a sin, is it forgiveable? Does your religious group promote its ethics/morality politically?

      and lastly . . . Did Ted Kennedy get a Catholic funeral? 🙂

    • Jim W.

      I find the results of this poll question interesting because if you change the question from the abstract “Should abortion be legal?” to the personal “Would you have an abortion?” the percentages change rather dramatically (at least they used to). I haven’t seen the results of that poll question in several years but I seem to remember it being around 75% saying they would not have an abortion. That would suggest about half of those that support legal abortion in the “abstract” still have some kind of personal issue against it (Senator Kerry, anyone?).

      It makes me wonder if the poll question isn’t a little misleading as an indicator of how people really feel about the issue. It’s easy to have an opinion when the subject is hypothetical or someone you don’t know. But when it becomes personal, your convictions get tested and you really have to ask yourself “Is killing human life right ?”

      That’s why I really don’t believe that pro-abortion has that much support in the US and it wouldn’t surprise me if in the next generation abortion is curtailed or made illegal.

    • Joe

      Your advocacy of anti-abortionism is a perfect example of the main problem with/sin in, Evangelicalism: it intermixes your own opinions, the “traditions of men,” with religion. And ends up presenting your own personal opinions as the word of God.

      See earlier discussion on this blog, on “Can a Christian” support abortion. The fact is, 1) the Bible never mentions abortion … 2) unless it supports it in Numbers 5. Where God actually orders a priest to give a dust to a woman which, if performed on a pregnant woman, would cause her “thigh” or “womb” to fall; so in effect we have a priest administering an abortifacient.

      Then too, 3) the Bible (in Job?) refers to us “being formed” in the womb; suggesting that we are not yet complete, not yet fully human, in the womb at all.

      4) Then too, the main issue in abortion is: is the foetus really human. As defined by “ensoulment”; having a soul. But Jewish tradition suggested that this happens eight days after birth. And the two greatest Catholic theologians – Aquinas and Augustine – both suggested that ensoulment did not happen at conception, but at least 30-90 days after. Some even say at first breath, after birth.

      Here as so often, Evangelicals sin gravely, by speaking falsely for God. Taking their own opinions, and presenting them as the word of God. When in fact, God, the Bible, never said any such thing at all.

      And in this case, typically, to back one of the main planks of the Republican party platform. Once again, Evangelicalism is indeed, “The Republican party at prayer.” Mixing politics, with religion.

      And of course, Evangelicals’ way of thus speaking falsely for God, is a very, very, very grave sin.

    • cheryl u


      You know what I believe about all of this. And you also know I spent multiple hours discussing it with you in the past on the other thread. So don’t expect me to go there again.

    • Josh M

      Any guesses as to why being Jewish makes you so predisposed to make abortion legal?

    • Michael

      I just graduated from law school in May. One of my classes the final semester was Jurisprudence. Of course my definition isn’t complete or anything, but does give some of the tenants of what legal positivism stands for.

    • #John1453

      Re post #12 by Joe

      Excellent insight into the mindset of the Pharisees and scribes against whom Jesus argued. I can see Joe right there beside the man who asked Jesus, “who is my neighbour” while all the time knowing full well the casuistic and rule bound answer that contemporary Judaism gave. And right beside the men who asked Jesus about divorcing, knowing full well the difference between the rules of the schools of Hillel and Shammei and the very detailed readings of the exact words of Moses.

      Joe would ask Jesus, “given that there are no specific, explicit rules in the Biblical on abortion, what’s wrong with it?” Jesus would answer with the parable of the good samaritan.

      Re legal positivism

      Michael, I was reacting primarily to your statement that ” the law is ultimately whatever the sovereign says it is.” There are two ways to go with, or derive, that phrase. One is, rex lex, or, the king is law which is a version of the divine right of kings (which is not legal positivism). The other way is to argue that all laws are social conventions, that is, human-made rules- – whether they are made by kings, despots, social contract, or democratically. That view has a disconnect between morals and ethics and law; it denys the validity of natural law.

      Your use of Scalia was a correct illustration of legal positivism. It was just that your initial phrasing had me thinking rex lex.

      Despite Romans 12, I agree with you that evangelicals don’t have a well worked out view of the relationship of their fiduciary duty to God with their duty to the state, and they fail to see that appeals to the “original intent” of the Constitution cuts both ways, as you rightly point out.

      Most Americans forget that even after the adoption of the Consitution, state support for churches was still permitted and indeed continued for a number of years in several states.


    • CNic

      I’m struck by the fact that many evangelical Christians are against government involvement to care for the sick and poor, yet want government legislation to stop abortion. It is not my intention to be argumentative, but it seems contradictory.

      Morality cannot be legislated and a few “hot-button” issues don’t define Christianity. Life situations and people are not always black and white; therefore, I don’t believe it is for me to judge. Christ said “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone?” and, “Judge not, lest ye be judged?”

      Roe v Wade has not been overturned, even with a “Right Wing Christian” in office for 8 years. And the fact is, making abortion illegal does not reduce its occurrence, any more than having illegal drugs reduces their use. Frankly, our country has a plethora of devastating issues that are clearly within the scope of government practice, and I prefer the energy of politician’s be used to address those issues. If you are truly “pro-life”, how about speaking with a pregnant girl who is distraught and provide compassion and support. Perhaps you could offer to assist her financially or donate some of your time to help her care for the child. If you are not willing to do that, then you are being legalistic. Also, being “pro-life” should extend to caring for that life once it is outside the womb, in the form of healthcare, education, clothing, food, shelter and love. Politicians (and others) who are greedy, divisive, intolerant, war-mongering, have committed adultery, lie, slander, name-call and lack regard for the earth that God entrusted us with, are not behaving as our Lord would. God does not want Scribes and Pharisee’s who followed the letter of the law but not the spirit. He wants changed hearts. Our government cannot provide that for us.

    • cheryl u


      Of course you are right, government can not legislate morality. But is it not an altogrether different matter to legislate immorality? The killing of our unborn chidren? To legislate that killing them is ok to do is, in my mind, monstrous.

    • Marvin the Martian

      “Morality cannot be legislated and a few “hot-button” issues don’t define Christianity. ”


      Then why do we have laws that dictate conduct at all? Rape and murder are against the law. Why? Any answer you give will ultimately fall into moral ground.

      “And the fact is, making abortion illegal does not reduce its occurrence, any more than having illegal drugs reduces their use.”

      On what basis do you make this absurd “fact” (other than your “because I say so”)?

    • cheryl u


      When I said morality can’t be legislated, I meant at the heart level. But as I am thinking about this, I certainly agree with you, if we don’t have laws that put limits on conduct and penalties for breaking them, we would be in huge trouble.

      As a matter of fact, Romans 13:4 makes it clear that is the purpose of governement. It says, speaking of rulers, “For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

      And I too would like to know where CNic got the information that making abortions illegal does not reduce the number of them.

    • Marvin the Martian


      CNic, like most liberals, share the annoying propensity for making “it’s a fact” statements that have absolutely ZERO basis in fact.

    • CNic

      Marvin the Martian –

      I was going to respond to your comments, but clearly you’re not open to having a respectful dialogue. When you start using terms like “absurd” and “annoying” to describe my views, you’ve ended the conversation. You’ve also assumed my comment had no basis in fact, because you haven’t read material that doesn’t confirm your own beliefs. For the record, I’m not a “liberal”, I’m more of a “moderate” who leans to the right. Though I feel I can learn from all perspectives.


    • Marvin the Martian


      Your assertion that making abortion illegal wouldn’t reduce it’s occurence was completey baseless and patently absurd on it’s face. I’m sorry if that offends.

      A thirty second google search reveals that the frequency of abortion has increased roughly tenfold in the United States AFTER the Roe decision legalized it in 1973.

      It is also a documented FACT that the much of the abortion rights movement was founded upon a stack of lies. To wit:

      “The news that Norma McCorvey–“Jane Roe” in Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that liberalized abortion law–had switched from support of abortion to opposition to it is a welcome development and underscores a general trend in the American population, said Father Frank A. Pavone.

      Ms. McCorvey’s involvement in the nation’s most important abortion case began in Dallas in 1970 when she was seeking an abortion and met two lawyers who were looking for a plaintiff to test Texas’ abortion laws. Under their guidance, Ms. McCorvey sued to contest the abortion prohibition and lost, but the Supreme Court reversed the decision Jan. 22, 1973, and ruled that abortion was legal in all 50 states. Ms. McCorvey remained an anonymous figure until the late 1980s when she announced her identity, revealed that she had never been raped, as she had testified in the original case, and that she had gone through with the pregnancy and given up the baby girl for adoption.”

      Then there’s this:

      “numbers were knowingly inflated by proponents of abortion rights. The star witness for this claim is Bernard Nathanson, a former abortion clinic doctor who in 1969 cofounded the group now called NARAL Pro-Choice America (the letters originally stood for National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws). Since Roe, though, he’s turned against his former comrades — he made the highly controversial 1984 antiabortion film The Silent Scream and has authored several books describing his conversion on this issue and critiquing the abortion-rights movement.

      In Aborting America (1979) Nathanson writes: “In NARAL we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always ‘5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year.’ I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the ‘morality’ of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?”

      I am frankly sick and tired of this government sanctioned slaughter at the alter of “choice” or “reproductive rights” or whatever phrase liberals attempt to use to polish the ugliness of it. I am sick and tired of the people who attempt to justify it. Abortion is an unspeakable evil that has been tolerated for far too long.

    • j

      on #14 – There are a lot of factors here, Josh. First, they didn’t separate orthodox Jews from others, who tend to be politically liberal, so that’s one issue. But I can tell you first-hand that abortions for babies with birth defects (downs synd., holes in the heart, missing limbs, et al) are routinely recommended in Israel — even to the orthodox. What percent follow through I don’t know, but there is a higher rate of defects in endogamous populations, so the issue comes up.

      Further, there are some traditions, rabbinic, I believe, that don’t really consider the baby fully viable until a month’s survival after birth (on that, cf. Num 3:15).

      Lastly, as was mentioned somewhere above, the issue isn’t clearly addressed in scripture, and most religious Jews (or their leaders) read it in Hebrew, which makes this even more clear than it is in our English translations.

      I think if you polled only orthodox jews you’d get a split closer to the Catholics or Evangelicals.

    • Michael

      I know I’m going down my rabbit trail, but I think pointing it out is important. You mentioned that rape and murder are illegal in your post as examples of legislating morality. Yet as pointed out earlier, the prevailing legal philosophy in this country and among Evangelicals (whether the realize it or not) does not allow for such a moral determination. Rather rape and murder are illegal simply because the government has decided that they are illegal and can exercise coercion to enforce it’s decision. There is no morality to it. It is all about power. In the same way government has decided that abortion should be legal and it’s decision is supported by the majority of the electorate, thus abortion is legal.

    • Marvin the Martian

      “Rather rape and murder are illegal simply because the government has decided that they are illegal and can exercise coercion to enforce it’s decision. ”


      I think that this addresses the how, but it doesn’t address the why. The government didn’t simply decide to outlaw rape/murder just because they felt like it. There were beliefs held by those in government that led to the decision to outlaw those acts. It is those motivations of the government to outlaw certain acts where morality comes into play.

    • Michael

      What you say is true when you state that morality (at least in our system) plays a role in making the laws, but I think you miss the point. In our system a law which allows for the murder of innocent, helpless human beings is still a law and is enforced as such. There are other ways of thinking about “law” which would hold that such a law violates “natural law” and therefore is not a law at all and should not be enforced. I don’t want to go too far into this. I just wanted to point out how philosophy affects us and some incongruity in the prevailing ways Evangelical’s think about “law”. It is nothing more then an interest of mine being an Evangelical and a lawyer. Yet to fully discuss the issue we would have to go into all sorts of things like the relationship between natural law and the Catholic Church, the extent of human reasoning capacities, will versus reason, Calvinism vs. Arminianism etc. etc. etc. Suffice to say it is extremely complex.

    • Alejandrina Cichocki

      Induced abortion has a long history and has been facilitated by various methods including herbal abortifacients, the use of sharpened tools, physical trauma, and other traditional methods. Contemporary medicine utilizes medications and surgical procedures to induce abortion. The legality, prevalence, cultural and religious status of abortion vary substantially around the world. Its legality can depend on specific conditions such as incest, rape, fetal defects, a high risk of disability, socioeconomic factors or the mother’s health being at risk. :;”:

      Have a good week

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