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Poll shows a majority of UK Catholics and Protestants support abortion in the case of unwanted pregnancy, and believe Catholic Bishops should stay out of abortion politics

November 22, 2007

A new weighted, representative poll of UK faith groups including Catholics and Protestants shows definitive support for a woman’s right to have an abortion in cases of unwanted pregnancy, according to a new poll released by Catholics for Choice (CFC) today.

The YouGov poll—conducted less than ten days ago—shows a majority of the sample to be more liberal than the 1967 UK law on abortion allows—even where participants identified as belonging to a faith group. The 1967 Abortion Act does not allow UK women to end a pregnancy solely on the grounds of being unintended or unwanted. Catholics for Choice President Jon O’Brien will present this poll data to MPs this morning, which comes as Parliament debates the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which may be used to amend the 1967 Abortion Act.

Results showed a broad support for legal abortion across all groups. In response to the statement, “It should be legal for a woman to have an abortion when she has an unwanted pregnancy”

  • 63% of all respondents to the poll strongly agreed or agreed (14% disagreed or strongly disagreed);
  • 58% of self-identified Protestants strongly agreed or agreed (19% disagreed or strongly disagreed);
  • 43% of self-identified Catholics strongly agreed or agreed (27% disagreed or strongly disagreed).

Of special note in the current environment—wherein Catholic bishops have become more aggressively vocal in their efforts to restrict access to abortion- in response to the statement,

“Catholic bishops concentrate too much of their attention on abortion when there are other issues that also require their attention”

  • 64% of all respondents to the poll strongly agreed or agreed (8% disagreed or strongly disagreed);
  • 68 % of self-identified Protestants strongly agreed or agreed (7% disagreed or strongly disagreed);
  • 42% of self-identified Catholics strongly agreed or agreed (27% disagreed or strongly disagreed).

A majority of the sample within each UK faith groups appear to be exposed to the need for, and use of abortion. When asked “Do you know somebody who has had an abortion?” the responses were similar across all the faith groups and those of no religion:

  • 54% of all respondents knew somebody who has had an abortion;
  • 53 % of self-identified Protestants knew somebody who has had an abortion;
  • 52% of self-identified Catholics knew somebody who has had an abortion; and
  • 56% of those who expressed no religious belief knew somebody who has had an abortion.

President of Catholics for Choice, Jon O’Brien, said today,

“The poll results demonstrate to us an important point that is often ignored or glossed over in discussions about the law on abortion: namely, that British people, of all faiths and none, trust women and families to make their own decisions when it comes to the choice to terminate a pregnancy or bring a child into the world.

“Despite what the Catholic hierarchy would like the public to believe, a plurality of British Catholics has chosen to ignore this divisive rhetoric, and instead follow their consciences when it comes to supporting access to abortion. They aren’t looking for bishops to lecture them, or for politicians to tie people’s hands.”


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,983 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th and 16th November 2007.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Read the full poll here. [PDF]