Posted January 12, 2006
Statistics that reflect that the next generation
of adult Catholics see abortion for what it is
Survey shows high school seniors feel
abortion is wrong, favor curbs
By Agostino Bono
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A national survey of high school seniors reported that many of them have a strong moral opposition to abortion and favor restrictions on "a woman's right to choose" an abortion.
An analysis of the survey said that when they answered general questions about abortion seniors "appeared supportive of abortion rights," but responses to more detailed questions on circumstances in which it should be allowed showed "most seniors regard abortion as morally wrong" and that they "would significantly limit" when a woman could have an abortion.
The survey also showed that almost 75 percent of the respondents supported legal recognition for gay couples with 54 percent of the respondents supporting gay marriage and 20 percent favoring gay civil unions.
On abortion and gay issues, the views of seniors who identified themselves as Catholics paralleled the general results, although there was a higher adherence to church teachings among Catholics who said that they went to church more than four times a month.
The survey of 1,000 public and private school seniors was conducted by Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., and the polling firm of Zogby International. It was made public at a Jan. 5 news conference in Washington.
The margin of error for the entire survey is plus or minus 3 percent and the margin of error for the 255 Catholic respondents is 6.4 percent.
The survey showed that seniors "are twice as likely as adults to support legal recognition of gay marriage" and are "remarkably conservative on issues surrounding abortion," said an analysis of the poll written by Dennis Gilbert, Hamilton sociology professor and head of the survey team.
"Religion and reported church attendance are powerful influences on abortion and gay marriage opinions," said Gilbert. "Born-again Christians and those who attend services four or more times a month are notably more conservative on these two issues."
Regarding abortion, the overall survey reported that 62 percent of the seniors supported the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, but it also showed there was widespread support for limiting access to abortion.
Almost half of the seniors opposed a right to abortion for girls who are under 18 and are unmarried and in cases where the baby would probably be born with birth defects. Seventy-two percent opposed abortion in the case of a married woman who does not want another child and 60 percent opposed abortion in the case of a woman who is from a poor family that cannot afford more children.
Two-thirds of the respondents would require parental consent before a girl under 18 could have an abortion.
The only strong support for abortion was in cases where the pregnancy was a serious threat to the mother's health (89 percent) and in cases of rape (81 percent).
When asked if they would consider an abortion, 70 percent of the female students said "no." Sixty-seven percent of the male seniors said "no" when asked if they would want their girlfriend to have an abortion.
Regarding the morality of abortion, 23 percent said it was always wrong and 44 percent said it was usually wrong. Only 4 percent said it was always acceptable and 28 percent said it was usually acceptable.
On gay issues, 63 percent said that gay couples should be allowed to adopt children and 60 percent disagreed with the statement that "gay lifestyles are morally wrong."
Regarding the breakdown of Catholics on gay issues, 71 percent of those who go to church fewer than four times a month supported legalizing gay marriage compared to support for such unions from 48 percent of the Catholics who attend church more than four times a month.
Almost 81 percent of respondents who go to church fewer than four times a month said gay couples should be allowed to adopt and 91 percent did not think that a gay lifestyle was morally wrong. Among the more frequent churchgoers, 65 percent said that adoption should be allowed and 63 percent did not think that a gay lifestyle is morally wrong.
Regarding Catholics' answers on abortion, 38 percent of the less frequent churchgoers considered themselves pro-life while 60 percent of the more frequent churchgoers called themselves pro-life.
Among the more frequent churchgoers, 25 percent said abortion should always be illegal and 33 percent said it should be illegal most of the time. For those who go to church less than four times a month, 10 percent said it should be illegal all of the time and 32 percent said it should be illegal most of the time.