Black Protestants Are More Likely to Be Anti-Abortion, Anti-Death Penalty, and Anti-Assisted Suicide

The Trumps during their visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican (Image: The White House / Flickr)
The Trumps during their visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican (Image: The White House / Flickr)

If President Donald Trump really was pro-life, Pope Francis said on Monday, then America’s chief executive wouldn’t end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“If he is a good pro-life believer, he must understand that family is the cradle of life and one must defend its unity,” the pontiff told reporters. Separating children from their parents “isn’t something that bears fruit for either the youngsters or their families.”

This stance shouldn’t surprise anyone, as one of the distinctive features of Catholic theology is what’s been described as a “consistent ethic of life.” In other words, protection and preservation at all stages of life. That’s why the Catholic church’s “seamless garment” condemns abortion, the death penalty, assisted suicide, and embryonic stem cell research.

[Editor’s note: CT has reported how many evangelicals feel the same. Leaders have advocated for life not only around abortioneuthanasia, and the deathpenalty, but also related to refugees, the elderly, and #BlackLivesMatter.]

But almost no Americans—including Catholics and evangelicals—hold to a consistent ethic of life, according to the General Social Survey (GSS).

For my analysis, I relied on three questions asked by the GSS, the gold standard of social science research due to its massive sample size, large question set, and 40 years of data. They were:

  1. Please tell me whether or not you think it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain a legal abortion if: The woman wants it for any reason? (Favor/Oppose)

  2. Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder? (Favor/Oppose)

  3. Do you think a person has the right to end his or her own life if this person: Has an incurable disease? (Yes/No)

Below is a Venn diagram of how the American population feels about these issues. A fair number of respondents are opposed to abortion (38%), but are also in favor of the death penalty and assisted suicide (19%).

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