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Women in poll had abortions despite churches' views Nearly half in survey were Catholic or evangelical


With the Republican Party poised to reaffirm its position that abortion should be banned, an abortion-rights institute is to release a study today revealing that thousands of women who have had the procedure are affiliated with religions that crusade against abortion.

The study of nearly 10,000 women nationwide who had abortions in 1994 and early 1995 found that despite the Roman Catholic Church's strong opposition to abortion, 31.3 percent of the abortion patients surveyed were Catholic. And 18.1 percent of the 10,000 patients identified themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians.

The study was conducted by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a New York City-based group that studies reproductive health care.

"The importance of this kind of study is to finally get it into people's minds that it happens to a lot of good, conscientious people, to religious people," said Jeannie Rosoff, president of the Guttmacher Institute, which is supported by major foundations and government grants.

The Guttmacher Institute is the only nongovernment group that tracks the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of women who have abortions. The institute began analyzing abortion trends after the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion and did its last major study in 1987.

While most of the trends since 1987 have remained constant, researchers concluded that teen-age abortions are decreasing and that the percentage of women having abortions who used a contraceptive during the month they became pregnant increased by 12 points.

Stanley Henshaw, co-author of the study, said that in 1987 the teen-age abortion rate was about 15 percentage points higher than the overall rate and in the new study it is about equal to it. The teen-age rate may be dropping because the AIDS scare has prompted more condom use, he said.

Rosoff and other Guttmacher Institute officials insist that release of the study was not timed to coincide with the Republican convention's abortion debate.

But the institute doesn't mind the coincidence. "The news release is written capitalizing on that timing," said Susan Tew, spokeswoman for the institute. "It's important as we go into this convention that abortion is not seen as something that only happens to liberal women and feminists. It's among all of us."

The survey also showed that single women who live with their partner or have no religious affiliation are about four times as likely as other women their age to have an abortion and that non-whites and women with incomes of less than $15,000 are twice as likely as women generally to have one.

Pub Date: 8/08/96

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