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Hispanics, Black Americans Differ on Legality of Abortion Despite Moral Objections

A poll titled The African American & Hispanic Reproductive Issues Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) revealed that although many black Americans find abortion morally wrong, they are not opposed to its legal status.

The poll found that Hispanic Americans' views on the morality and legal status of abortion, however, are much more closely linked.

"Like most Americans, black Americans and Hispanic Americans bring a complex set of identities to the issue of abortion," said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. "For example, majorities of both black Americans and Hispanic Americans simultaneously identify as both 'pro-choice' and 'pro-life.'"

The present survey, which is an update on another PRRI abortion survey conducted in 2011, showed that a little bit more than half, or 52 percent of Black Americans who find abortion to be morally wrong think that it should be legal in all or almost all cases, compared to only 25 percent of Hispanics who believe the same. The 2011 survey had identified that 67 percent of black Americans and 46 percent of Hispanics in total think that abortion should be legal.

Hispanic and African-Americans liked using both of the phrases "pro-life" and "pro-choice" to describe themselves. Seventy-one percent of black Americans and 77 percent of Hispanics said that "pro-life" describes them very well, but at the same time 75 percent of black Americans and 72 percent of Hispanics said the same of the phrase "pro-choice."

The survey also took a deeper look into how views on abortion are formed in the black and Hispanic communities, with religion emerging as a major factor.

Where the two groups separated somewhat in terms of percentages was how much Hispanics who attend service at least once or twice a month heard about abortion at church (54 percent) verses only 30 percent of black Americans in the same category.

What is more, 68 percent of black American churchgoers noted that their churches preach that abortion is morally wrong, compared to an even bigger number at 84 percent by Hispanics who said the same. The issue of abortion was much more discussed among Hispanic Catholics than Hispanic Protestants, at 62 percent and 41 percent respectively.

Both the majority of black Americans and Hispanics said, however, that "they are not judging other people," and that when shaping their abortion views, they consider "showing compassion for women in difficult circumstances."

Churchgoers also said that despite what clergy tells them, they are able to keep their own views and disagree on the legality of abortion, yet still be considered good Christians. Seventy-eight percent of black Americans agreed with the statement, compared to 60 percent of Hispanics.

"Among black Americans and Hispanic Americans, religion plays an important role in shaping attitudes on abortion," concluded Daniel Cox, PRRI Director. "However, the messages that both groups receive from clergy are less consequential than other religious factors, like identifying as an evangelical Christian."

For the survey, the Public Religion Research Institute surveyed 810 non-Hispanic black American adults and 813 Hispanic American adults between June 14 and June 23, 2012.

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