The Politics of Pregnancy: How Sexual Behavior Relates to Abortion Opinion

Jennifer E. M. Hill, Stanford University

Despite decades of study, social scientists only partially understand why people support or oppose legal abortion. Attitudes towards sex and abortion are clearly linked, but no studies explore the relationship between sexual behavior and abortion opinion. However, this issue deserves consideration, especially given the consistently high rates of unintended pregnancy in the United States, and the unequal burdens that pregnancy and child rearing place on women. Using data from the National Health and Social Life Survey and the General Social Survey from 1988 to 2010, I find that one’s number of recent sexual partners has a significant and robust impact on his or her support for legal abortion, especially among heterosexual women. This suggest that vulnerability to the ramifications of an unplanned pregnancy may be more important than ideology in shaping opinions on abortion legality.

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Presented in Poster Session 9: Family Planning, Sexual Behavior, and Reproductive Health