The role of religion in guiding moral decisions continues to be shown as significant, especially in relation to abortion, according to fresh analysis of the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.
“The impact of religious practice is still not examined nearly as frequently or routinely in social science analysis as it ought to be,” said Patrick Fagan, senior fellow and director of Marriage & Religious Research Institute for Family Research Council, headquartered in Washington, D.C. “Studies show that faith is very significant for the public good.”
A recent look at the 1997 survey – which is statistically much the same as later surveys, Fagan noted – found a positive correlation between religious fathers and a pro-life outlook. In examining current religious attendance, only 5 percent of fathers who attend religious services at least once a week are likely to have encouraged mothers to abort.
Six percent of fathers who never attend religious services, 8 percent of fathers who attend religious services at least once a month, and 8 percent of fathers who attend less than monthly are likely to be the reason the mother has an abortion.
“This illustrates to me that a little religion is a dangerous thing,” said Fagan. “Fathers who never worship are less likely to encourage an abortion than those who worship on a less frequent basis.”
The analysis also discovered the positive link between intact married families and fathers who embrace life. In looking at the structure of the family or origin, 4 percent of fathers from intact married families ever encourage women to have an abortion.
Next are fathers from married stepfamilies, who are twice as likely to encourage women to have an abortion (8 percent), fathers from single divorced-parent families (10 percent), fathers from cohabitating stepfamilies (11 percent) and fathers from always-single families (15 percent). Fathers from intact cohabiting families are the most likely to encourage mothers to have an abortion (17 percent).
“Fathers in an intact marriage are more likely to defend life,” Fagan remarked.
In combining current religious attendance and structure of family of origin, only 3 percent of fathers who grew up in intact married families and who now worship at least weekly are likely to be the father who encourages a woman to abort his child.
Two percent of fathers who grew up in intact married families but never attend religious services are likely to encourage mothers to abort, compared to fathers who grew up in all other family structures and never attend religious services (9 percent) and fathers who grew up in all other family structures but attend weekly religious services (9 percent).
“I take from this that regular religious practice and intact marriage together are highly protective of life,” Fagan concluded. “Both marriage and religious attendance need to be restored because both are very important for the public good. Pastors can have a big impact on life when they persuade people to marry and to worship God regularly.”