The Birth of the Pro-Life Movement

18 Jun

In the 1980s, in order to solidify their shift from divorce to abortion, the Religious Right constructed an abortion myth, one accepted by most Americans as true. Simply put, the abortion myth is this: Leaders of the Religious Right would have us believe that their movement began in direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Politically conservative evangelical leaders were so morally outraged by the ruling that they instantly shed their apolitical stupor in order to mobilize politically in defense of the sanctity of life. Most of these leaders did so reluctantly and at great personal sacrifice, risking the obloquy of their congregants and the contempt of liberals and “secular humanists,” who were trying their best to ruin America. But these selfless, courageous leaders of the Religious Right, inspired by the opponents of slavery in the nineteenth century, trudged dutifully into battle in order to defend those innocent unborn children, newly endangered by the Supreme Court’s misguided Roe decision.

It’s a compelling story, no question about it. Except for one thing: It isn’t true.

Although various Roman Catholic groups denounced the ruling, and Christianity Today complained that the Roe decision “runs counter to the moral teachings of Christianity through the ages but also to the moral sense of the American people,” the vast majority of evangelical leaders said virtually nothing about it; many of those who did comment actually applauded the decision. W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press wrote, “Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.” Indeed, even before the Roe decision, the messengers (delegates) to the 1971 Southern Baptist Convention gathering in St. Louis, Missouri, adopted a resolution that stated, “we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” W.A. Criswell, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, expressed his satisfaction with the Roe v. Wade ruling. “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” the redoubtable fundamentalist declared, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”

An excerpt from the 2006 book ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ by Randall Balmer

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2 Responses to “The Birth of the Pro-Life Movement”

  1. Ferrell Gummitt June 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    “W.A. Criswell, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, expressed his satisfaction with the Roe v. Wade ruling. “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” the redoubtable fundamentalist declared, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.””

    All pro-choice talk is about is when the unborn child will be a person, but they never say anything the potential the child will have once he or she is born.

    Simply stated, does anyone in the pro-choice movement ever talk about what the child might be able to do once he or she is born? Maybe they will find a cure for cancer, write a hit song or maybe they will grow up have a regular 9 to 5 job, a family and a mortgage. But the potential is there for greatness or just to contribute to the common good somehow. Roe v Wade and the Pro-Choice movement take that away, refer to the unborn born as “IT” or a mass of random protoplasmic cells that can be easily sucked into an Abortionist’s vacuum in a short procedure.

  2. wordkitty June 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Respectfully, the view of nearly everyone, including conservative Christians during Criswell’s era, is that it isn’t a he or she till it takes its first breath.
    Potential. The world of “if”. It has no place in a rational discussion.

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