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Jesus Said Nothing About Abortion – The Pro-Life Movement is Built on Fallacies

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Guest post by History

Abortion was common during Jesus’s life, and he had nothing to say about it. [1,2,3]

Abortion was common when the U.S. Constitution was written, and the founders had nothing to say about it, except for the adoption of British common law, which allowed it up to the sixth month of pregnancy, and abortions after that were considered a misdemeanor, though rarely enforced. [4]

The pro-life movement was started by physicians in the second half of the 19th century, because women “healers” had the market cornered on reproductive health, and doctors wanted control of that as a source of revenue, though at that time they had no more expertise than the non-medical healers. The American Medical Association (AMA) succeeded in this endeavor, so that by 1900, abortion was a felony in every state, and women had to get doctors’ permission/approval to have an abortion. [5,8]

So far in our history, religion nor evangelicals nor Christianity are at play.

In the 1960s, infant death and fetal deformity increased substantially due to a sleeping pill (Thalidomide) side effect and German measles, and feminists and the public at large began demanding more reproductive control on a state level. [5]

This led to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade* decision legalizing abortion, on which U.S. evangelicals were still organizationally silent until 1979. Smaller religious groups and the Roman Catholic Church were opposed, but they had considerably less sway than evangelicals. [4,6,8]

Meanwhile, conservative political activist Paul Weyrich had been trying out different issues with which to form a movement to bring socially conservative Democrats over to the Republican side, including pornography, prayer in schools, the proposition of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, all to no avail. He could not get evangelicals interested nor mobilized around these issues. After seeing a few pro-life candidates pick up Senate seats and a governorship in 1978, he had a new idea… [4,6]

In 1979, the Republican Party enlisted the likes of prominent figures such as writer and theologian Francis Schaeffer**, and tele-evangelist Jerry Falwell (for whom they coined the phrase “Moral Majority” to help him in this cause). Schaeffer teamed up with physician and future U.S. Surgeon General to Reagan, C. Everett Coop, to show a series of graphic, sensationalized films depicting infanticide (such as countless baby dolls washed ashore along the Dead Sea) to evangelical audiences around the country, stirring their passions on an issue they didn’t realize they cared so much about and had previously accepted. [4]

Christian scholars quickly rebuked Falwell’s claims that the Bible “clearly states that life begins at conception” (for which Falwell referenced Luke 1:39-44 and Psalm 139:13-16), since the Bible doesn’t say that life begins at conception nor mention abortion. Massive pressure from evangelicals got these scholars fired or banned (such as Hessel Bouma III and David Gareth) and made other such scholars fearful of speaking out, suppressing their voices. [4]

And here we are today.


*The Roe v. Wade 7-to-2-vote decision legalizes abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, or thereafter to preserve a pregnant woman’s life or psychological well-being, leaving any further restrictions to each state. Just before Roe v. Wade, 30 states prohibited abortion under any circumstances, 16 states banned abortion except for rape, incest, health threat to the mother, etc., 3 states allowed residents to have abortions, and 1 state (New York) allowed it generally. [8]

**Francis Schaeffer’s son, Frank, has referred to his role in the pro-life movement–including co-producing the propaganda films and convincing his apolitical dad to join it in the 1970s–as “the single greatest regret of my life.” [7]


Recommended reading:

https://billmoyers.com/story/history-of-abortion-law-america/

https://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a6964440/abortion-before-roe-v-wade/

(Excerpt from latter: “[Before Roe v. Wade], we saw a lot of the complications in the hospitals. I was a doctor in training. Women came in bleeding, with fever, with incomplete evacuations, with perforations. Some of them were quite ill and occasionally someone died. We thought a lot of these were spontaneous abortions—we didn’t realize all of them were induced. The only reason we know that now is that when abortion was legalized, these cases disappeared. There were probably over a million illegal abortions being provided each year in this country, so when it was legalized, it did not increase the number of abortions. It just had a much higher complication rate [before Roe v. Wade], and today, we’ve made it one of the safest medical procedures that there is.”)

References:

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/abortion/legal/history_1.shtml

[2] https://earlychurchhistory.org/medicine/ancient-roman-abortions-christians/

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/13/weekinreview/on-abortion-its-the-bible-of-ambiguity.html

[4] http://religiondispatches.org/the-not-so-lofty-origins-of-the-evangelical-pro-life-movement/

[5] https://tah.oah.org/november-2016/abolishing-abortion-the-history-of-the-pro-life-movement-in-america/

[6] https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133

[7] https://www.vox.com/2016/5/24/11759678/samantha-bee-history-pro-life-movement

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_the_United_States


About the author:

History has been writing (and rewriting) as long as he can remember. Often misunderstood and misconstrued, he is thinking of transitioning and renaming himself Herstory, in hopes of broadening her perspective and depicting a more complete account of events. He currently resides in dusty books and memories, and books, and often repeats himself, which is worrisome, and hopes to make a comeback, as he finds himself increasingly ignored, forgotten, and denied.

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