What really drives anti-abortion beliefs? Research suggests it's a matter of sexual strategies

Many people have strong opinions about abortion – especially in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, revoking a constitutional right previously held by more than 165 million Americans.

But what really drives people’s abortion attitudes?

It’s common to hear religious, political and other ideologically driven explanations – for example, about the sanctity of life. If such beliefs were really driving anti-abortion attitudes, though, then people who oppose abortion might not support the death penalty (many do), and they would support social safety net measures that could save newborns’ lives (many don’t).

Here, we suggest a different explanation for anti-abortion attitudes – one you probably haven’t considered before – from our field of evolutionary social science.

Why do people care what strangers do?

The evolutionary coin of the realm is fitness – getting more copies of your genes into the next generation. What faraway strangers do presumably has limited impact on your own fitness. So from this perspective, it is a mystery why people in Pensacola care so strongly about what goes on in the bedrooms of Philadelphia or the Planned Parenthoods of Los Angeles.

The solution to this puzzle – and one answer to what is driving anti-abortion attitudes – lies in a conflict of sexual strategies: People vary in how opposed they are to casual sex. More “sexually restricted” people tend to shun casual sex and instead invest heavily in long-term relationships and parenting children. In contrast, more “sexually unrestricted” people tend to pursue a series of different sexual partners and are often slower to settle down.

These sexual strategies conflict in ways that affect evolutionary fitness.

The crux of this argument is that, for sexually restricted people, other people’s sexual freedoms represent threats. Consider that sexually restricted women often get married young and have children early in life. These choices are just as valid as a decision to wait, but they can also be detrimental to women’s occupational attainment and tend to leave women more economically dependent on husbands.

Other women’s sexual openness can destroy these women’s lives and livelihoods by breaking up the relationships they depend on. So sexually restricted women benefit from impeding other people’s sexual freedoms. Likewise, sexually restricted men tend to invest a lot in their children, so they benefit from prohibiting people’s sexual freedoms to preclude the high fitness costs of being cuckolded.

Tujuan kami adalah menciptakan tempat yang aman dan menarik bagi pengguna untuk terhubung melalui minat dan kegemaran. Untuk meningkatkan pengalaman komunitas, kami menangguhkan sementara fitur komentar artikel