by Steven ErteltLifeNews.com EditorJune 1, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) -- A new study finds that women students at private, religious schools are not less likely than their counterparts at public schools to have an abortion. In fact, sociologist Amy Adamczyk published an article in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior saying they are more likely.
Adamczyk, an assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, conducted the study.
While previous research has investigated the link between religion and abortion attitudes, fewer studies have explored religion's impact on abortion behavior.
"This research suggests that young, unmarried women are confronted with a number of social, financial and health-related factors that can make it difficult for them to act according to religious values when deciding whether to keep or abort a pregnancy," she said.
The researcher noted that shame in finding out that a religious school student is pregnant could result in a higher abortion rate.
"Religious school attendance is not necessarily indicative of conservative religious beliefs because students attend these schools for a variety of reasons," Adamczyk said. "These schools tend to generate high levels of commitment and strong social ties among their students and families, so abortion rates could be higher due to the potential for increased feelings of shame related to an extramarital birth."
Despite Adamczyk's finding that rates of reported abortions were higher for young women educated at private religious schools, the type of religious school was not a factor: Catholic schools had similar rates as other religious schools.
Results revealed no significant link between a young woman's reported decision to have an abortion and her personal religiosity, as defined by her religious involvement, frequency of prayer and perception of religion's importance.
Despite the absence of a link between personal religious devotion and abortion, religious affiliation did have some important influence. Adamczyk found that conservative Protestants were the least likely to report having an abortion, less likely than mainline Protestants, Catholics and women with non-Christian religious affiliations.
Regarding the impact of the religious involvement of a woman's peers, Adamczyk found no significant influence. However, Adamczyk did find that women who attended school with conservative Protestants were more likely to decide to keep their baby if pregnant in their 20s than during their teen years.
"The values of conservative Protestant classmates seem to have an abortion limiting effect on women in their 20s, but not in their teens, presumably because the educational and economic costs of motherhood are reduced as young women grow older," Adamczyk said.
Adamczyk examined how personal religious involvement, schoolmate religious involvement and school type influenced the pregnancy decisions of a sample of 1,504 unmarried and never-divorced women age 26 and younger from 125 different schools. The women ranged in age from 14 to 26 at the time they discovered they were pregnant.
Twenty-five percent of women in the sample reported having an abortion, which Adamczyk considers lower than the likely actual number.
Data for this study came from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a three-wave school-based study of the health-related behaviors of students in grades 7 to 12 at the time of the first wave. Adamczyk analyzed data from the first and third waves of Add Health, the first wave taking place from 1994 to 1995 and the third wave being completed between 2001 and 2002.
The article is "Understanding the Effects of Personal and School Religiosity on the Decision to Abort a Premarital Pregnancy."
The Journal of Health and Social Behavior is a quarterly journal of the American Sociological Association.