abortion, religion, elective abortion, pro-life, pro-choice


Abortion continues to be a highly contentious issue in the United States, with few signs of abatement. The goal of this paper is to specify how variable positions about abortion across religious traditions have led to differential shifts in attitudes among their members. Based on culturally relevant events, position papers, and other religious media, the guiding hypotheses propose that Evangelicals have become increasingly opposed to abortion for elective reasons; yet changes in attitudes regarding abortion for traumatic reasons are due primarily to cohort shifts. Data from the cumulative General Social Surveys (1972–2002) are used to test the hypotheses. The first hypothesis is supported: Opposition to elective abortions among Evangelicals has increased relative to other religious traditions. However, contrary to the second hypothesis, they have also become more opposed to abortion for traumatic reasons. This increasing opposition is most prominent among Evangelicals born in the last 40 years or so. Implications for understanding Evangelical distinctiveness and the cultural context of abortion attitudes are discussed.

Original Publication Citation

Hoffmann, John P., and Sherrie Mills Johnson. 2005. “Attitudes toward Abortion among Religious Traditions in the United States: Change or Continuity?” Sociology of Religion 66(2):161-182.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Sociology of Religion




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor