Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Political Science

First Advisor

E. Scott Adler

Second Advisor

Vanessa Baird

Third Advisor

Jamie Skerski


What causes pro-life people to support an exception for an abortion in the case of pregnancy by rape? Given the arguments that usually surround protecting the fetus, support for the exception is logically inconsistent; what seems to matter, then, is whether women are guilt. After striving to understand why this exception exists and controlling for variables like sex, biblical fundamentalism, church attendance, education, and age, I find that the presence of empathy ultimately allows individuals within an extreme issue to compromise on their beliefs. Further it was established that other beliefs or behaviors such as authoritarianism and sexism were found to reinforce this extreme belief. This has implications for a broader understanding of how empathy works to soften the extremity of some viewpoints and how authoritarianism strengthens them.