Overview:

Nonreligious Americans, and especially atheists, remain far and away the strongest supporters of abortion rights.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The pro-choice movement needs all the allies it can get, and the best place to find them is among the nonreligious. A Gallup poll from 2012 found that Americans with no religion were the most pro-choice of all demographic groups:

Americans with no religious attachment (self-identified atheists, agnostics, and those with simply no religious preference) identify as pro-choice by a 49-percentage-point margin over pro-life, 68% to 19%. This represents the strongest propensity toward the pro-choice position of any major U.S. demographic (as distinct from political) subgroup.

In U.S., Nonreligious, Postgrads Are Highly ‘Pro-Choice’.” Gallup, 29 May 2012.

However, that poll was a decade ago. Since then, the religious opponents of abortion have had ten additional years to make their case. Did they succeed?

A brand-new Pew poll from May 2022 has the answer. Secular Americans’ views on abortion have shifted. In the opposite direction:

At the other end of the spectrum, religious “nones”—U.S. adults who describe themselves, religiously, as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular”—are most supportive of legal abortion. Among religious “nones,” upwards of eight-in-ten say abortion should be legal in all cases with no exceptions (34%) or that it should be legal in most cases (51%).

America’s Abortion Quandary.” Pew Research Center, 6 May 2022.

85% of nonreligious Americans say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Assuming this maps to the pro-choice category of the 2012 Gallup survey, this would mean that the pro-choice advantage among the nonreligious has widened over the past ten years. It’s gone from an enormous 49% margin to an even more enormous 70% margin.

As an interesting side note, all the religious groups surveyed were sharply divided on abortion. White evangelicals are mostly opposed, while white mainline Protestants, Black Protestants, and Catholics are mostly supportive; but among each, there are large minorities with the opposite view. (Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus were included in the survey, but there weren’t enough respondents to break those out as distinct subgroups.)

Atheists, however, aren’t divided at all:

Compared with Christians, religiously unaffiliated adults are far more likely to say abortion should be legal overall—and significantly more inclined to say it should be legal in all cases without exception. Within this group, atheists stand out: 97% say abortion should be legal, including 53% who say it should be legal in all cases without exception.

Americans’ views on whether, and in what circumstances, abortion should be legal.” Pew Research Center, 6 May 2022.

This is as close to unanimous as you’re likely to find on any real-world issue—let alone one as ferociously contested as abortion. What can explain why nonreligious Americans in general, and atheists in particular, are so overwhelmingly pro-choice?

There’s only one answer that makes sense: All the arguments against abortion are religious arguments. There simply is no rational, secular, evidence-based case for banning abortion that holds any water.

If there were such a thing, there would be some non-negligible number of atheists who would defend it. Take it from me—we nonbelievers love to argue, and we’re about as conformist as a herd of cats. The only possible reason for our near-total unanimity is that, like our similarly unanimous acceptance of the heliocentric solar system or the theory of evolution, we can see demonstrated truths for what they are.

DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...