A large majority of Americans say they believe life begins either at conception or when a heartbeat can be detected, while only 13 percent say it begins at birth, according to a new survey by Lifeway Research survey conducted for the Land Center for Cultural Engagement.
The poll found that 35 percent of Americans say they believe life begins at conception, while 28 percent say they believe it begins when the heartbeat is detected. All total, 63 percent of Americans reject the pro-choice argument that the fetus in the womb is not life. Another 13 percent say life begins when the baby is viable outside the womb, while 13 percent say it begins at birth.
Daniel Darling, director of the Land Center, noted that most abortion surveys don’t ask Americans their thoughts on the beginning of life.
The survey’s results, he said, show that a majority of Americans “understand the unborn baby to be a distinct human person.”
“This reflects the growing awareness, perhaps due to technology, other scientific breakthroughs, and pro-life advocacy, that there is life in the womb,” Darling wrote in an analysis at LandCenter.org. “... Pro-life advocates have much more work to do, but we can be grateful that fewer and fewer Americans see a fetus as less than human.”
Meanwhile, only 10 percent of Americans support legal abortion up to the moment of birth, as is currently allowed under Roe v. Wade and its companion decisions. One-fourth (26 percent) would not allow abortion at any time. A total of 15 percent would allow abortion up to six weeks, and 11 percent would allow it up to 12 weeks.
“Those of us who believe in the sanctity of human life at conception, of course, are working for a day when human life is protected at all stages, but it is heartening to see the majority of Americans favor preserving life at earlier and earlier stages,” Darling wrote.
Americans also reject Roe’s allowance of elective abortions. Although large majorities support legal abortion in the case of the mother’s life being in danger (78 percent), rape (73 percent) and incest (72 percent), far fewer support legal abortion if the mother doesn’t want the child (37 percent) or if it’s based on financial hardship (37 percent).
The Land Center is a ministry of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Texas Baptist College. It is named for Richard Land, who served as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) for 25 years.
The survey was based on interviews with 1,155 Americans.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.