(Wikipedia)

People in red states and blue states are equally clueless about abortion

Yet another survey underscores the need for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education across the U.S.


Jenny Kutner
August 19, 2014 7:01PM (UTC)

Great news! Living in a red state does not reduce the amount of knowledge one has about abortion. Related: Terrible news! Living in a blue state does not increase the amount of knowledge one has about abortion.

According to the results of a recent survey by University of Cincinnati sociologist Danielle Bessett, the red state/blue state political divide plays a negligible role in shaping voters' understanding of abortion -- because regardless of where Americans live, they're pretty much equally uninformed about women's legal rights and reproductive health facts. Bessett and her colleagues found that political beliefs and location did not reflect the highly partisan nature of abortion views, nor did they seem to influence education about the issue. A mere 13 percent of respondents exhibited a "high knowledge" of abortion, exhibited by the ability to answer at least four of six questions correctly on the topic.

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The questions included in the survey were fairly basic, but alas, without adequate sex education, they appeared to be difficult for most Americans. While the data did initially seem to show support for the divide between conservative and liberal states when it came to individual respondents' knowledge of reproductive health and personal political views, Bessett ultimately discovered that personal views didn't really matter. Few people could answer the following correctly:

  1. What percentage of women in the U.S. will have an abortion by age 45? (Correct answer: 33 percent; percentage of respondents who answered correctly: 41 percent)
  2. Which has a greater health risk: An abortion in the first three months of pregnancy or giving birth? (Correct answer: giving birth; percentage of respondents who answered correctly: 31 percent)
  3. A woman who has an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy is more likely to have breast cancer than if she were to continue the pregnancy. (Correct answer: disagree somewhat/disagree strongly; percentage of respondents who answered correctly: 37 percent)
  4. A woman who has an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy is more at risk of a serious mental health problem than if she were to continue that pregnancy. (Correct answer: disagree somewhat/disagree strongly; percentage of respondents who answered correctly: 31 percent)
  5. A woman having an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy is more likely to have difficulty getting pregnant in the future. (Correct answer: disagree somewhat/disagree strongly; percentage of respondents who answered correctly: 35 percent)
  6. Abortion during the first three months of pregnancy is legal in the U.S. (Correct answer: true; percentage of respondents who answered correctly: 83 percent)

The researchers found that the lack of knowledge held across ages, genders and ethnicities, underscoring the need for better education for any and all demographic groups. The study concludes that many sexually active adults "may not be well informed about the relative safety and consequences of their choices," which can be attributed directly to the failures of abstinence-only sex education models -- or to any sex education models, really. Clearly, there's a dearth of comprehensive, evidence-based, medically accurate information about sex across the U.S. Americans want better sex ed; they need it, too.


Jenny Kutner

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