The Study

Purpose

Document the stories/experiences of religious women who have abortions in order to counter the dominant cultural narrative that religion and religious people are anti-choice.

Background/rationale

The dominant cultural narrative in the US is that religion (and particularly Christianity) is opposed to abortion. Vocal and vicious anti-choice Christian voices/activists contribute significantly to the abortion stigma that all women who end pregnancies experience. At the same time, 62% of women who have abortions identify as women of faith and most religious people in the US support the legality of abortion. Numerous studies have focused on documenting the reasons that women have abortions as well as their experience of stigma. However, very little research has examined how women understand their abortion decisions within the context of their lives as religious women. No one has studied how a woman’s religious identity shapes her decision to terminate a pregnancy or how religiously-identified women understand the meaning and value of their reproductive decisions to end a pregnancy. In the current political and cultural context, the voices and perspectives of religiously-identified women who have abortions needs to be documented and elevated in the public discourse. 

Description of project

This project will conduct interviews with women terminating pregnancies who self-identify as religious. They will be interviewed by a member of the research team, which is composed of five scholars trained in Religious Studies and representing different religious traditions (Judaism, Islam, Catholicism, Black Christianity, and White mainline Christianity). Phase I of the Abortion & Religion Project was a pilot study in North Carolina, funded by the Center for Reproductive Health Research in the Southeast (RISE) that will be completed in mid-2022. In Phase I, we collected 50 interviews. In September we are going to launch Phase II, wherein we will continue data collection in four regions (Northeast; Southeast; Midwest; West) that represent a range of US perspectives. Phase II will include four regions with 25 participants of each tradition per region for a total number of 500 participants.

Outcomes 

The research team is committed to creating public-facing materials (op-eds, popular articles, blog posts, webinars, and lessons, etc.) to help address the skewed public view that religion is anti-choice. You can find some of our publications here.

Data will also be used in scholarship to address the gaps identified in the background paragraph above. Our proposals have been accepted at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Christian/Jewish/Muslim Ethics for the 2022-2023 academic year.

IRB

This study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board at Elon University, Protocol #22-015 since July 1, 2021. 

The IRBs of Rutgers University, Georgia State University, and Dartmouth College have all signed reliance agreements. 

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Support our research

Individuals

Financial donations to support this research may be made to Elon University and designated for the Abortion & Religion Project, please contact religionstudy@elon.edu

Foundations

Information about foundation or other grant support for this research can be directed to religionstudy@elon.edu.

Providers

If your clinic would like to partner with the Abortion & Religion project to recruit participants for the study, please contact religionstudy@elon.edu