“So I think, you know, I think our family was involved in helping to launch a horror show.”–Frank Schaeffer
America’s anti-abortion movement is gaining ground fast, and it’s white evangelical Christians on the front line.
They are a strident force in the pro-life movement, but not so long ago this group was completely indifferent on the issue of abortion.
So what happened?
This is how a group of men turned millions of disengaged Americans into the most powerful political force in the country.
It’s hard to believe now but abortion hasn’t always been the political firestorm that it is today.
Early on, before Reagan, the Republican party was actually more abortion-friendly than Democrats. The Republican party was conservative, didn’t like state intervention and people’s personal lives and so forth. This meant that in 1973 the landmark Roe v Wade decision would legalize abortion across the country. The decision to end a pregnancy belongs to the woman and her doctor not the government.
The only significant group to object was the Catholic church and they had always done so. White evangelicals were then, as now, the biggest religious group in the country? They made up 26% of the population.
But unlike today, they were ambivalent on the issue of abortion and politics in general. Evangelicals regarded abortion as a Catholic issue.
And it was really irrelevant to who they were and what they cared about.They were more interested in evangelism, that is bringing others into the faith, and they had really no interest in politics.
Politics was dirty, was considered Satan’s ground to some degree and they didn’t want to be involved in politics at all.
Certainly not in any organised way. Until political operator Paul Weyrich teamed up with influential preacher Jerry Falwell. The two men looked at churches filled with believers and saw political and financial opportunity.
The 60s were a time of political revolution, with the civil rights movement, feminism and the LGBT cause pushing their way into mainstream politics. And Weyrich’s mission was to crush the liberalism that was threatening conservative white America. Paul Weyrich really was a visionary because he saw the potential way back in the 1960s.
Weyrich and Falwell first managed to mobilize Evangelicals when changing laws around school segregation put all-white Christian academies at risk. The two of them really came together to form the basis for the religious right. When the evangelicals lost the segregation fight, the two men were on the hunt for any issue to keep the momentum going.
Paul Weyrich said, as I recall, that there was a conference call among these various leaders after they had mobilized and somebody said, ‘We have the makings here of a political movement, what other issues can we talk about?’
And several people made suggestions and finally a voice at the end of one of the lines said: ‘How about abortion?’
Weyrich and Falwell enlisted the help of philosopher Evangelist and cult figure, Francis Schaeffer.
From The Guardian’s “How America’s abortion obsession was sparked on a conference call.”