Study: Anti-abortion views linked to sexist attitudes towards women

It is estimated that nearly one in three American women will have an abortion by age 45.  But the debate over a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy still rages on in the United States, decades after the Supreme Court’s contentious Roe v. Wade ruling.

Research in the feminist journal Affilia suggests that opposition to abortion is driven in part by sexist attitudes towards women.

The study examines the relationship between sexism and abortion through the lens of the Ambivalent Sexism Theory. The psychological theory holds that sexist attitudes about women come in two main forms: a hostile version and a benevolent version.

Benevolent sexism describes the belief that women are nurturing, caring and gentle, but cannot function properly without protection from a strong male partner.  Kathleen Connelly of the University of Florida has summarized benevolent sexism as the belief that “women are wonderful, but weak.”

Hostile sexism, on the other hand, represents overt antipathy or dislike of women. Both forms of sexism maintain that women should be subordinate to men.

“While women have been shown to endorse forms of hostile sexism somewhat infrequently, women’s endorsements of benevolent sexist beliefs are quite common,” the researchers noted.

In their study of 627 male and female students from six universities, the researchers found African American and Asian American respondents were significantly less likely to be against abortion than were white respondents. Unsurprisingly, students who were more religious tended to have the strongest anti-abortion views.

The study also confirmed its main hypothesis: that sexist attitudes were correlated to anti-abortion views. As individuals increasingly endorsed either hostile or benevolent forms of sexism, they also tended to increasingly endorse anti-abortion views.

“This suggests that sexism, regardless of whether it is justified through traditional, old-fashioned misogynistic rhetoric or through a ‘kinder’ or ‘more gentle’ rhetoric, plays a continued and significant role in the opposition to abortion rights for women,” the researchers said.


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    Surprising? Notin the slightest. The republican “protecting women from abortion”, ” women deserve better”, “women need time, give them waiting periods” attitudes are all either patronising or benevolent sexism. This is nothing new and very much rooted in religion.

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    Miss Anthropy on

    One in three women will have an abortion by age 45? Really? That seems high. Could we get a citation for that figure?

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        Miss Anthropy on

        Thank you for your condescending reply. I was looking for something a little more scientific.

        For instance, the Alan Guttmacher Institute says there were 19 abortions per 1000 women in North America in 2008, down from 22 per 1000 in 1995 and 21 per 1000 in 2003. The same table says there were 28 per 1000 women worldwide in 2008, compared to 35 per 1000 in 195 and 29 per 1000 in 2003.

        Guttmacher cites a 2012 article in The Lancet.

        I initially included links to both the Guttmacher and Lancet articles, but my post was flagged and deleted.

        For the Guttmacher article, I used Google to find their site, clicked on “Abortion” in the Google results, then clicked on “Facts on Induced Abortion Worldwide” in the “Top Resources” box. Scroll down a bit, and you can see the table with the Lancet citation.

        To find the Lancet article, I used Google to search for “lancet induced abortion incidence and trends worldwide 2012” (without the quotes), then clicked on the first link with that title.

        I found a number of articles citing the 1/3 lifetime figure given above, along with several citing a 1/10 lifetime incidence, but none of them gave any citations from any reliable source; it seems that many of them are quoting each other.

        So, again, I ask: can someone provide a citation from a reliable, well known, and respected source for the 1-in-3 lifetime figure?

        You know nothing about me or my friends, so stop speaking for us.

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          So 20 abortions per 1000 women over 20 years = 400 abortions. 400 is 40% of 1000. 1/3 is about 30%. So if some women have more than one abortion over 20 years then the 1/3 figure seems reasonable.

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            Miss Anthropy on

            1/4 with multiple abortions for some women would be smaller than 1/4 women, not larger. It would be 1/4+, like 1/4.5 or 1/5, not 1/3. On the other hand, I think many studies use ages 15-45, which would make the number higher than for an age range of 20 years.

            I’m not saying I absolutely disbelieve the figure given in the article, but it’s higher than I’ve seen anywhere else. I think the last figure I saw was 1/5. However, I don’t remember where I saw it, so I can’t back up my claim.

            Either way, I’m still looking for something substantiating the 1/3 figure, published by a reliable source, like WHO, CDC, World Bank, ACOG, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, etc., or published in a peer-reviewed publication in a medical or similar field, like Lancet or JAMA.

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      The CDC…the Guttmacher Institute…survey after survey after survey….

      This has been common knowledge for DECADES. What?

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    I can not believe 627 people from 6 different universities is enough of a sample size to conclude anything. The number is very small and the sample they polled is a group notorious for jumping on any SJW event just because they took a class on it. It needs to be done with people from different backgrounds and different age groups.

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      Chief Presiding Judge on

      I tend to question the judgement of anyone who uses a meaningless buzzword like “sjw”. It shows your maturity level may not be up to par.

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      Statistical analysis allows you to gain useful information from a small sample size. Actually, anything larger than 30 is considered a large sample. But certainly there could be a self-selection bias, but you are assuming that is how participants were selected. Nowhere in this article, nor in the abstract it links to, is state selection criteria stated.

      Standard practice in social science is to give participants enough information to offer informed consent, but not enough to skew results. Often participants are told that they are studying a something more broadly, or even that they are studying something altogether different, in order to avoid selection bias and also to avoid participants altering their behavior/answers in one way or another.

      Experientially, however, this rings true. Most people I know who hold anti-abortion views are also sexist. My experiences include a wide range of people from varied backgrounds and ages. I would assume that in the scientific article the researchers recommend repeating this study with more participants of varying ages, etc. That would be standard for a study like this. I also expect that any further studies would only support and strengthen this one.

      Logically, if one truly supports and respects women then one realizes that women are uniquely poised to make childbearing decisions for themselves and their families. If you feel that women are reproductive tools, in service to God, the state, or their husbands, then you are likely to find abortion threatening.

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        Beth Zampol on

        Deva, I thank you especially for your final paragraph. It is the most succinct statement of the kernel of the issue I’ve ever read. Well said and appreciated!

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    I don’t see that there’s any real difference between the hostile and benevolent forms of sexism. I think the benevolent form allows sexist men to get close enough to women to have sex with them and have “love” or “caring” feelings as long as the women are conforming to their constricted view. This can very quickly change to hostility and anger when a woman doesn’t conform. One small example is men who claim to love women so much they like to compliment them about their looks. But their so-called positive regard turns almost immediately into rage and namecalling if the response of the woman clearly conveys that she doesn’t care about his opinion, as say commonly happens on the street.

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    The key thing is the rates are reported by years, while a lifetime is likely to be 70 years, so it adds up.

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    *rolls eyes*

    If the Guttmacher and the Lancet aren’t good enough for you, what pray tell would be?

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    Some of the MRA’s I’ve noticed, especially the more militant ones are guilty of doing exactly what they accuse feminists of; complete intolerance, censorship, delusion. I was banned from Breitbart not long ago after disagreeing with some of the mra’s there who labeled me a “lunatic” for simply providing a pov that was opposite theirs.

    If we want things to change for the better, both sides need to have an open dialogue, one not favoring one side or the other. Censoring differing pov’s will only further the gross childish ignorance I’ve witnessed.

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    Anomalocaris of the North on

    Is everything misogyny nowadays? I mean, here men who see women as needing protection are accused of misogyny (which means hating women, so poor choice of words), while I’ve seen men accused of misogyny for being the opposite, seeing that women take care of themselves without a guy’s help.
    The word has lost its significance to me, as it’s been used far too much.