Abortion, Religion and Sex

Note: It appears you have not yet completed the interactive activity, Whose Body Is It Anyway?. If you work through this - it'll take about 5 minutes - before reading the analysis below, things will make a lot more sense. At the end of the activity, you'll find a link that will return you to this page.

Whose Body Is It Anyway? has to date been completed by 78571 people. The charts below present some of the data that have been collected.

It is worth noting three things before proceeding. The first is that "morally permissible" here means that a person either endorsed the proposition that abortion is always morally justified or the proposition that it is normally morally justified (but only in exceptional circumstances in the late stages of pregnancy). The second is that a belief about the moral status of abortion is not equivalent to a belief about the right to abortion. So, for example, it is possible to think that abortion is not morally justified, but that women have the right to abortion. The third is that you can't easily generalize about the wider population on the basis of the data presented here - not least, religious belief is significantly under-represented among visitors to this web site.

It is clear from the charts above that religion is the most significant predictor of a person's stance on the morality of abortion: if you're a Christian, then likely you're going to think that abortion is not morally permissible, if you're an atheist, it's the other way around. This is the expected result. Less expected is the fact that a higher percentage of males than females think that abortion is morally justified - a difference that is easily statistically significant. One thought here is that this result is an artifact of the importance of religion - that is, a higher percentage of females than males in this sample are religious (it's worth noting that differing levels of religiosity almost certainly explain the variation between countries we see in the third chart). So let's look at men and women of no religion.

Respondents who self-identify as belonging to "No Religion"

As you can see, the difference between males and females remains even when you factor religion out of the equation. It is a small difference, but it is statistically significant - the samples sizes here are 45288 and 34372 people, respectively - and certainly it is curious that it exists at all. It isn't possible to rule out some systematic bias in the sampling, but it isn't easy to see what this might be (especially given that the difference is greater for the younger age group).

Really Deep Thought

Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths.
   --Bertrand Russell.


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