“Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Post-Roe? New Prospects for the Abortion Debate in America”
If you missed the Fordham University Webinar hosted by the Center on Religion and Culture that I participated in alongside Katelyn Beaty, Mary Ziegler, Gloria Purvis, and host/Center Director David Gibson, read about it or watch a recording of the event here! Thanks also to the Catholic News Service for this summary of our panel conversation.
My appearance on America Trends Podcast is now live! Listen here or download from your favorite podcast player. Thanks to Larry Rifkin for the invitation to engage the topic of abortion attitudes on the eve of the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
You may not really know how people feel about abortion because no one likes to talk about the issue. The sense you get from reading about abortion is that it divides people very neatly into camps-pro-life or pro-choice. The truth is that once you sit down and discuss the issue with everyday Americans their views are much more difficult to categorize in neat buckets. That’s according to Tricia Bruce, PhD., of the University of Notre Dame, who led a team of five sociologists in the definitive study called ‘How Americans Understand Abortion’. People seem to grasp the gravity of the decision and the many factors that weigh into a woman’s decision. In fact, one out of four women who agreed to be part of a survey on a major ‘social issue’, unaware when agreeing that it was abortion, had had one. A major finding was that abortion is not merely a political issue, but an intimately personal one which involves not just life, but the notion of what is a good life for the mother and the child. And while Americans don’t ‘want’ abortion, most recognized its place in the sphere of reproductive rights a woman should have an ability to choose, even if they want strict limitations placed on it. Learn more about what Americans truly feel about one of the most contentious issues in the public realm.
All are welcome to join this webinar discussion sponsored by Fordham University’s Center for Religion and Culture! I look forward to participating. Find details and RSVP info below.
New prospects for the abortion debate in America A Fordham Center on Religion and Culture Webinar January 27, 2021 | 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. EST
Views on abortion rights in the United States have remained almost unchanged over the years while the politics of abortion have grown more polarized and partisan. Is there a way forward? Will events force a change in the debate? While the Supreme Court’s conservative composition could overturn Roe v. Wade, the incoming President, a Catholic, is vowing to protect abortion rights.
This webinar brings together experts and faith-based voices who provide new perspectives on the legal, political, and social dynamics of today’s increasingly intense argument over abortion rights and the chances of a fundamental change in that debate.
Tricia Bruce is a sociologist of religion and an affiliate of the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society. Last summer she published a study, “How Americans Understand Abortion”, the largest in-depth interview study of American attitudes on abortion.
Mary Ziegler, a professor of law at Florida State University, is one of the foremost authorities on the legal history of the American abortion debate. Her most recent book, Abortion and the Law in America: Roe v. Wade to the Present (2020), traces the legal history of the abortion debate from the recognition of a right to choose to “the likely undoing of Roe today.”
Gloria Purvis is a Catholic radio host and popular media commentator. She served on the National Black Catholic Congress’s Leadership Commission on Social Justice and describes herself as “dedicated to promoting the sanctity of human life, marriage, and the dignity of the human person.”
Katelyn Beaty is a former managing editor of Christianity Today, the flagship evangelical magazine, and an author and journalist who has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post. She is an acquisitions editor for Brazos Press and is writing a book about celebrity in the church.
Kudos to organizers at the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University (Durham, England) for putting together a lively virtual conference around the theme of Lived Catholicism. I was honored to give a keynote address entitled “Where Catholicism Lives” alongside keynotes from Robert Orsi, Alana Harris, and Stephen Bullivant. Thanks to Avril Baigent and team for their leadership and vision to make this happen.
Lived Catholicism continues to evolve as an arena of scholarship. I am encouraged to see so many excellent young scholars representing varied disciplines and continents continue to move it forward in creative ways!
America Magazine put together a compelling set of podcasts in the lead-up to the Fall 2020 Election, considering multiple angles of issues that many Catholics weigh as they head to the ballot box. I’m grateful for the invitation to participate in a special episode entitled “Abortion: It’s More Complicated Than You Think.” I appreciated the opportunity to summarize findings from my recent comprehensive qualitative interview study of How Americans Understand Abortion, available from the McGrath Institute of the University of Notre Dame. Listen to the full episode here.
My new essay in the Wall Street Journal (page C3 in the September 26-27 issue) brings attention to what we learned from interviewing hundreds of Americans in-depth regarding how they think and feel about abortion.
A big takeaway? Americans’ views are far more nuanced than what a black and white, “pro-choice” versus “pro-life” framing presumes. Abortion may epitomize our “us” versus “them” political culture, but actually talking to people reveals anything but a clear line between mutually exclusive camps.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring sociological research to bear on the ways we think through this issue, which is often talked about without sufficient attention to how ordinary Americans, themselves, view it.
For more, check out our full report published with support from the McGrath Institute at the University of Notre Dame. I’ll continue to post additional publications here. You can also follow me on Twitter @TriciaCBruce.
*Thank you* to each of the 217 Americans who participated in confidential interviews with our research team. We are honored and grateful for your candor, without which this study would not have been possible.
My report on American’ Abortion Attitudes – a study and publication of the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life – has received wide attention in media sources. I am thankful for reporters who have engaged with its contents, implications, and correctives regarding what we think we already “know” about abortion attitudes…but haven’t really asked (or listened).
The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the news stories, radio shows, and podcasts that feature our study. Posting does not signal endorsement. My hope from the earliest stages of this study has been to foster more productive conversations predicated on sound sociological data.
For one, abortion discussions are uncommon or nonexistent in everyday life. The interview was, for many, their first time to talk about abortion beyond simple position labels. Many were still figuring out for themselves what they thought.
Abortion also turns out to be far more personal than political: three-quarters of interviewees knew someone personally who’d had an abortion, and a quarter of our female interviewees had had an abortion, themselves.
Some told us that they vote in ways that don’t always match how they feel. Some contradicted themselves, or openly recognized when they felt conflict between multiple values.
While the abortion decision itself receives the most attention in public debates, in private it is more about what happens before and after that decision: what was the nature of the relationship between conceiving partners? What was the level of efficacy and support? What would long term outcomes look like for all involved? And so forth.
Our report amplifies the voices of a diverse swath of Americans who differ by age, occupation, race, ideology, political party, educational background, religion, and more. Rather than attempting to fit them into the kinds of pre-set categories that survey questions require, we let people talk freely. And we listened.
Thank you to the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life for funding this important study, support from Jess Keating, and to my stellar team of interviewers: Bridget Ritz, Maureen Day, Kendra Hutchens, and Patricia Tevington.
What happens to a church that closes? This is a question I’ve researched for a few years in the context of closed Catholic parishes, with funding support from the Louisville Institute. A new article from CityLab brings attention to one outcome for closed church properties: the transition to affordable housing. Thanks to reporter Alex Wittenberg for interviewing me for this story:
These are the words that Kevin J. Christiano uses to describe American Parishes: Remaking Local Catholicism, a book I edited with Gary Alder and Brian Starks (2019, Fordham University Press). Christiano brings the reader in with the following personalized account in his review:
We are grateful for Christiano’s careful read and positive review that concludes with “This is a book that ought to inspire and orient new and better research about the life of the Catholic Church in the United States and the parishes in which it is lived every day of the year.”