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Catholic Politicians and the Politics of Abortion Position Taking

  • Kathleen Marchetti (a1) and David O'Connell (a1)


Four decades after the Court's landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, the issue of abortion persists as a point of contention for elected officials. The Catholic Church has taken a leading role in the pro-life movement, putting many Catholic representatives in a difficult position as they can be cross-pressured by their party, their constituents, and their own beliefs. Given these pressures, how do Catholic legislators explain their positions on abortion? We address this question via an analysis of public statements about abortion made by Catholic representatives and senators in the 108th Congress. We examine which members comment on abortion and use automated text analysis to measure legislators' certainty and use of moral and religious terms when discussing abortion. Multivariate analysis shows that gender, ethnicity, and an interaction between a member's position on abortion and the number of Catholics in their constituency shape how Catholic legislators discuss abortion.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Kathleen Marchetti, Department of Political Science, Dickinson College, P. O. Box 1773, Carlisle, PA 17013. E-mail:; or to: David O'Connell, Department of Political Science, Dickinson College, P. O. Box 1773, Carlisle, PA 17013. E-mail:


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Co-authorship of the manuscript is equal and authors are listed alphabetically. The authors wish to acknowledge the valuable suggestions and feedback provided by the editor and three anonymous reviewers at Politics and Religion. In addition, the authors thank Mary Martin for her assistance with data collection for this article.



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Catholic Politicians and the Politics of Abortion Position Taking

  • Kathleen Marchetti (a1) and David O'Connell (a1)


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