THE DUTCH ABOUT ABORTION
Public opinion about ending life in abortion, euthanasia, war and punishment
Ruut Veenhoven and Felix Hentenaar
Stimerzo-Research 75-3, Stichting voor Medisch verantwoorde Zwagerschapsonderbreking
STIMEZO, The Hague, 1975, 96 pages (in Dutch)
This research is a continuation of the research work concering the attitude towards
abortion carried out in Holland in 1971. This time, however, the question relating to this
problem was rephrased to cover a wider field and put in the perspective of "respect
for human life". The opinion poll covered a representative sample of the Dutch
population in the age category of 18 years (N = 5931). Questions were asked about the
respondent's opinion on abortion, laws on abortion, abortion in cases of advanced
pregnancy, euthanasia, capital punishment and sexuality. The major conclusions of the
report may be summarized as follows:
- In 1974 we still find a growing acceptance of abortion. It has been found for
instance that at the present time 45% of the Dutch population accepts abortion on request
whereas three years ago the percentaqe was only 28%.
- Acceptance of abortion used to be strongly limited to the category of young, highly
skilled, non-denominational, politically progressive well-salaried persons, living in
towns. At present we also find a growing acceptance of abortion among sections of the
- The acceptance of abortion cannot be explained by a general decrease of
"respect for human life". Acceptance of abortion does not run parallel with
acceptance of capital punishment and acts of war (violence). There is, however, a positive
relationship with acceptance of voluntary euthanasia. As to capital punishment and war,
opponents of abortion were proved to have less "respect for life" than advocates
of abortion. This result corresponds to comparable research carried out outside Holland.
- It would rather seem that the growing acceptance of abortion is the result of the
changes which have in the long run taken in the realm of sexuality, family planning and
orientation reqardinq basic values.The increasing number of sexual contacts and the
shorter period of family formation causes an increasing risk of being confronted with
undesired pregnancy. On the other hand, abortion is gradually being destigmatized, and we
find a growing respect for the individual right to choose.
- A substantial minority of the population believes that aborti~ should also be
allowed in case of pregnancy in an advanced stage. This minority group is also represented
when we examin Holland's denominational groups.
- The preference relating to abortion laws are clearly focused by two extreme
categories: abortion only emergencies under a restrictive law, or (free) abortion on
demand with abolition of all prohibitory regulations. Very few people appear to support a
middle course as favoured by the Dutch conservative party (VVD) the supporters of which by
no means agree with the parlementary party's point of view.
- Nearly half of the respondents consider the execution of our fellow human beings by
way of punishment or during war-time admissible.
- Euthanasia is considered more admissible for the physically sick than for healthy
human beings (69% to 12%).
- Acceptance of abortion and sexuality is strongest in the "cul tural
vanguard" of young, better educated people living in towns. Capital punishment and
war are accepted more by elderly less educated people living in small non-industrial
Full text in Dutch