George V. Reilly

Anti-Abortion movement started in response to desegregation

I found an in­ter­est­ing piece on the NPR website about the modern anti-abortion movement:

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.


Let’s remember, [Paul Weyrich] said animatedly, that the Religious Right did not come together in response to the Roe decision. No, Weyrich insisted, what got us going as a political movement was the attempt on the part of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to rescind the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because of its racially dis­crim­i­na­to­ry policies.


"What caused the movement to surface," Weyrich reiterated,"was the federal gov­ern­men­t’s moves against Christian schools." The IRS threat against segregated schools, he said, "enraged the Christian community." That, not abortion, according to Weyrich, was what galvanized po­lit­i­cal­ly con­ser­v­a­tive evan­gel­i­cals into the Religious Right and goaded them into action. "It was not the other things," he said.

Excerpted from Thy Kingdom Come, by Randall Balmer.

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