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How Evangelicals Turned on Abortion
26
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How Evangelicals Turned on Abortion

The history of one of our most contentious issues and what it tells us about today
26

The abortion issue is dragging down the rest of the conservative movement. While many have pointed this out, there hasn’t been much thinking yet about what, if anything, can be done about it. The goal of this podcast is to look back on how the pro-life movement came to dominate American conservatism and investigate whether that history has any lessons for today.

As discussed in Randall Balmer’s Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right, Evangelicals did not care about the abortion issue until the late 1970s (see thread). The origins of the Moral Majority can actually be found in resistance to civil rights law, and attempts to set up and protect religious schools that either implicitly or explicitly excluded students based on race. In addition to the book, this monologue relies on a BBC podcast I would highly recommend (audio, abridged text) on the origins of the culture war. It talks about the important role of Francis Schaeffer’s documentary series Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, which was screened across the country in early 1979.

Francis Schaeffer and his later repentant son Frank. Source.

In this podcast, I go into Evangelical-Catholic differences and what the history of the anti-abortion movement tells us about political change over time and the potential for conservatism to shift again. Here, the Trump cult can be an advantage, since one man has such a disproportionate influence on political attitudes. He has already shown skepticism about the pro-life agenda; whether he currently has the actual ability to execute a pivot given his current mental state is a different question. Near the end, I talk about the ways in which conservative meanness and their desire to “own the libs” can potentially convince them to change their minds on the abortion issue. The results of the 2024 election will be key here. Parties don’t like to repeatedly lose — especially in a hyper-polarized era like our own— and pro-lifers being at fault for yet another bad year may help move conservatives closer to the rest of the public on reproductive freedom.

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Richard Hanania's Newsletter
Clown Car
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