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Online for Life recently polled our Facebook community to determine what extrinsic and intrinsic forces influence one’s pro-life views. The survey sample included 1,294 respondents who shared their personal views on abortion and, more specifically, the primary reason why they are pro-life. The survey also inquired about one’s views on when life begins and the acceptability of exceptions being granted for abortion, such as in the case of rape or incest.

This is perhaps one of the most revealing studies conducted within the pro-life community,” says Brian Fisher, Co-Founder and President of Online for Life. “We are not only able to determine why our audience is pro-life, but we are also discovering what forces have the greatest influence in converting people from pro-abortion views to a pro-life stance.

According to the survey, the number one reason that determines a person’s affiliation with the pro-life movement is the influence of their church and the church’s teachings on the sacredness of life. In fact, nearly one-half of all respondents (45.6 percent) cited their church as the greatest force that shaped their pro-life views. Family was cited as the second greatest influence at 37.2 percent, followed by friends coming in at 9.9 percent of those surveyed.

Breaking down the question further, the survey asked: Why should we value human life? Twenty-three percent cited morality as their primary reason, while 56.4 percent responded that it’s God’s command. Not surprisingly, however, younger respondents cited morality over God’s command by a near two-to-one margin. This may reflect the trend among Millennials to be interested in moral injustice causes, but be unaffiliated with any particular church or religion.

Over 17 percent of all respondents said they were once pro-choice. In a series of follow-up questions, the survey provided keen insight as to why and when most people converted to a pro-life stance. Of those who were once pro-choice but then changed to pro-life:

  • Education altered one’s views on life for 27.6 percent. One respondent commented, “I realized that these lives taken are not just bundles of tissue. They are babies that feel pain.” In most cases, those whose views had changed admitted that when they were pro-choice, they did not have a complete understanding about the abortion procedure nor its long-term emotional impact.
  • Another 24.4 percent credited Christianity or teachings of the Church for the shift in their views from pro-choice to pro-life. “I don’t see things the way I used to,” one respondent said. “Many of my views were sinful and incorrect, not just my view on abortion—which is indeed murder.”
  • For 23.5 percent of respondents, becoming pregnant and giving birth to their own child impacted their views on abortion [Note: This is a combined percentage.  13.4% becoming pregnant; 10.1% becoming a mother]. This likely explains why abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood purposely craft language to avoid references to pregnancy or a baby in the womb.
  • Coming in at 10.6 percent are the women and men who suffer from post-abortion regret. While it may take years for the full impact of their past decision to reveal itself, having suffered an abortion quite often leads to a shift in one’s position from pro-choice to pro-life. Further analysis revealed that a majority of these post-abortion respondents were coerced into having an abortion. One respondent’s views changed after “being forced at age 17 to murder [her] preborn child.”

Breaking down the results further, the survey found that 68.4 percent of the respondents indicated they are very knowledgeable about abortion, as opposed to 28.9 percent who indicated they are only “familiar” with abortion. When broken down by age, we discover there is a direct correlation between one’s age and his or her knowledge of abortion — up until the age of 75, at which point knowledge of the issue declines sharply. This is perhaps due to the fact that the older generation did not grow up surrounded by the abortion debate, nor did they have immediate access to the information that is now so readily available to younger generations.

Some of the most insightful survey results stem from the questions, When does life begin? and Should exceptions be granted for abortion? While 96.2 percent believe life begins at conception, up to 30.6 percent believe exceptions should be made for abortion.

This is a troubling contradiction and demonstrates there is work to be done in educating pro-life individuals about the inherent rights of the unborn,” Fisher observes. “Unless a mother’s life is truly at stake, there should never be cause to elevate the rights of one human being over another.”

In terms of the legality of abortion on demand, 92.1 percent of respondents believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned, but only 18.2 percent believe it can be done in the next 10 years. Meanwhile, nearly one-fourth of the respondents (22.2 percent) were unfamiliar with life-affirming pregnancy centers. So while there remains a strong desire to end abortion in America among pro-life individuals, there also appears to be a lack of understanding as to how it can be accomplished.

With nearly a quarter of pro-life individuals not knowing about the work of life-affirming pregnancy centers, no wonder many feel we can’t bring an end to abortion in the coming years,” Fisher says. “That’s where organizations like Online for Life are making a difference. Not only are we shining a light on the incredible work of these centers, but we are doing it in such a way that measures and verifies the number of lives saved.”

When asked how engaged they are in the pro-life movement, the favorite offline engagement tool of the community appears to be writing petitions and letters (29.4 percent), and that ratio seems to increase by age (45.5 percent of those age 75+). Petition and letter writing was followed by consumer boycott (27.5 percent) and community and grassroots engagement (21.3 percent), although the definition of that level of activism is not really clear. Volunteering is preferred by 21.9 percent, and it is very popular with the 18 to 24 age range (30 percent). The least common method of engagement is demonstration (14.8 percent).

From an online perspective, 70.5 percent stated they are engaged via Facebook. And the types of responses given for the “Other” category of engagement (11.4 percent) were predominately praying, donating to the cause, and speaking in favor of the pro-life movement when in a social gathering or asked by their peers.

Finally, the survey asked respondents about the first word that comes to mind when they think about the pro-life movement. Words like life, babies, and human rose to the top of the list. While this is to be expected, Online for Life’s qualitative research shows that the pro-life movement gets better results by addressing the needs of the woman in crisis in addition to protecting her unborn child.

This explains why at Online for Life, we are not only focused on helping rescue the unborn, but we are also honed in on the needs of the mother-to-be,” Fisher noted. “When the woman is ministered to, so is her child. That’s why everything we do here at Online for Life is framed in a compassionate and nonjudgmental manner to help both mother and child.”

To find out more about the work of Online for Life, please visit onlineforlife.org.