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:

  1. 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%.
  2. 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 population.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Nearly half of the respondents consider the execution of our fellow human beings by way of punishment or during war-time admissible.
  8. Euthanasia is considered more admissible for the physically sick than for healthy human beings (69% to 12%).
  9. 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 towns.

    Full text in Dutch