The Politicization of Abortion

Thursday, May 05, 2022 Bryan Hudson 1 Comments

PHOTO CREDIT: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

[NOTE This article was written in August of October of 2020]

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19) 

For Christ Followers, the issue of abortion is front of mind. It is part of the discussion about biblical justice and social justice.

In the 1990's, many of us participated in activities to discourage the option of abortion and to encourage choosing life. Unfortunately, what we thought was a “Pro-life” movement was actually a political movement in disguise. In 1979, Rev. Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority. This was an American political organization that Falwell described as pro-family and pro-American. 1 They talked about promoting Christian conservative social values, notably outlawing abortion, pornography, and gay rights. The Moral Majority disbanded in 1989, but the movement served to establish Conservative Christians as a force in American partisan politics.

During that time, I was among those who considered any “morality” movement a necessary alternative (in hindsight, because being Christ’s Church was not enough). The Moral Majority tapped the "moral outrage" part of my self-righteous mindset. I later learned that moral outrage was highly selective in nature. High profile concerns were addressed, while other less visible concerns such as domestic abuse and systemic racism were overlooked by groups such as the Moral Majority. These movements proved to be politically motivated, more than focused on biblical righteousness (justice).

Context always brings clarity

Only weeks after “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965, during which peaceful protesters who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge were beaten by State Troopers, Rev. Jerry Falwell gave his response during a sermon;

“Believing the Bible as I do, I would find it impossible to stop preaching the pure saving gospel of Jesus Christ and begin doing anything else—including the fighting of Communism, or participating in the civil rights reform...Preachers are not called to be politicians, but to be soul winners.” 2

This was the position of many conservative Christians of the era, including those who opposed the efforts of Dr. King, the Civil Rights movement, and the pursuit of Black Americans seeking equal rights. Later, Jerry Falwell reversed course and stated; 

“The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country.”  3

The Moral Majority was founded on the idea that engagement in politics and influencing government to do the bidding of Christians was the way to “save” America. Many might disagree with my assessment, but this became my conclusion after years of engagement with persons involved with the Moral Majority and related movements in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Since the demise of the Moral Majority, the focus of politically motivated Christians has remained the same. The aim seems to be “run the country” using partisan political action and developing systems such as “Christian worldview” based curriculum to inculcate their values into traditional and non-traditional education. It is the right and duty of all American citizens to participate in politics, but in the 21st Century, conservative Christians became increasingly intertwined with the Republican Party, white supremacists (wittingly and unwittingly), and partners with immoral persons such as Donald J. Trump. Voting for Republican candidates and against Democratic Party candidates became an article of faith.

Within this context, we return to the issue of abortion. My anecdotal evidence of many years engaging with conservative Christians suggested that the embrace of saying, “I am Pro-life" did not focus on saving unborn lives, but a strategy to gain and hold political power. When engaging in discussions with persons who claim to be “Pro-life,” it is my practice to inquire about what actions are taken to prevent abortion. The response usually only amounts to voting for Republican Party candidates, something which suggests that the premise of using the tragic issue of abortion is for political gain.

After 1973 when the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide (it had previously been a state-by-state matter), political activism on the part of politicalized Christians went into high gear.

The stated goal of conservative Christians has been to overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal. The strategy has been to “stack the Supreme Court” with justices who are persuaded by Republican politics. It is not certain if this strategy will succeed in creating a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade since Supreme Court justices sometimes become unpredictable. What seems certain is that conservative Christians will bind themselves to a single political party and to its candidates regardless of their personal morality, competence, or harmful positions on other important matters.

The Presidency of Donald Trump from 2016 to 2020 exposed conservative Christians in this regard (he received votes from 81% of such persons). The term Evangelical Christian became conjoined with a single political party (leaders in the Civil Rights Movement did not make that mistake). Because of this politicization, many with the wider society reject the Evangelical Christian part of the church. This partisan political fixation, to the exclusion of many other important issues, has damaged their witness for Christ among the unchurched and groups such as millennials and African Americans.

No Christ Follower favors abortion. For this author, the political tactics employed by conservative Christians have been disappointing and have not dramatically reduced abortion rates according to reports compiled by the Centers for Disease and Control that track legally induced abortions. 4 From 2008 to 2016, the rate of abortions declined 25% (interestingly, during the presidency of Barack Obama). The decline was attributed to improvements in access to healthcare and better use of contraceptives. 5 The decision to abort is often linked to the prospect of a lack of affordable healthcare.

Non Partisan Actions to Save the Unborn

Escaping the politicization of abortion by politically motivated Christians must first involve answering the question: What is the most effective strategy for saving the lives of the unborn?

Those who hope to overturn Roe v. Wade and who say abortion is “murder” must resolve what to do with women who obtain abortions. I know of one Christian attorney who says women who get abortions deserve the death penalty after conviction. This is a contradiction to the “Pro-life” moniker, but as stated earlier, the objective of conservative Christians seems to be gaining political power more than exhibiting Christlikeness.

Voting for a Republican candidate may not prevent abortions, but it will likely garner financial support, put persons into positions of power (some of whom may not otherwise be qualified to govern), and provide a career with great employment benefits.

What Actions Save Unborn Lives Today?
1. Teaching young people and all people to live right, serve God, and not to engage in illicit sexual activity. 

2. For women who experience an unwanted pregnancy, counsel them to “choose life” by not getting an abortion. 

3. Assist those who “choose life” with their healthcare, pre-natal, and post-natal care. 

4. Help mothers and their children to be productive and fulfilled. Mentor the children.

5. Hold young men and men accountable to take responsibility for their actions and the consequences of those actions. 

6. Support Crisis Pregnancy Centers as front line people and organizations that provide alternatives to abortion. 

7. Because abortion is legal, it is a choice. Helping people “choose life” is vital. 

8. Focusing on making abortion illegal is impractical in the short term and making it illegal is not the final solution in the long term. If or when abortion becomes illegal, many women will seek to self-abort or resort to other methods of abortion. 

9.  Teaching people to value life is the best solution. This is what conservative Christians should focus on doing rather than wasting their time and forfeiting their credibility, compromising with politicians.

Article Addition, May 5, 2022:

As I write, there has been an unprecedented leak from the United States Supreme Court of a draft of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade. What is unfortunate about the leak is the  politicization of the Supreme Court, which had been regarded as non-partisan. In light of President Donald Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell's efforts in “stacking” the court with three appointees (notably the unconstitutional denial of President Obama's right to appoint a Justice after the death of Antonin Scalia), it is more likely the Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

Many Christians regard this possibility as a “victory.” I regard this as the fulfillment of a long game strategy to use our government, law, and courts to do the bidding of political/conservative/Republican Christianity. This is especially apparent when we consider that many of these same people only view “pro-life” within the context of political party affiliation, not within the context of personal actions taken to save the unborn and support the born (examples cited above).

The current celebration regarding the possibility of “victory” in overturning Roe has come at the cost of moral compromise of biblical values, supporting immoral people, remaining silent to other social ills such as systemic racism, ends-justifying-means tactics, and using government/law/courts to punish sinners and enforce “Christian liberty.” This is far from "pro-life."

It is sad to view focus shifting from Christians actually working to save unborn lives by personal persuasion to “choose life,” and supporting those who are born, to seeking to use our government, law, and courts to impose punitive measures for sinful actions. Moralistic positions often have a repressive side beyond any apparent “triumph over evil.” 

Overturning Roe v. Wade sends the matter back to the states, as was the status before 1973. You can be sure that none of the culture warriors of political/conservative/Republican Christianity will be content to allow states to decide on abortion. If successful in overturning Roe, these Culture Warriors (and former promoters of the Gospel) will be emboldened to use their new found influence over government/law/courts to punish sinners and impose Christian Nationalist values at every possible station of life. 

I've had a disturbing thought in light of recent actions to curtail the teaching of uncomfortable aspects of American history (especially as it relates to the systemic mistreatment of Black people):  It seems to me there are some who would have no objection to the imposition of a Christian form of Islamic sharia law in the United States.  Before dismissing this outcome as impossible:

•  Consider uninformed and irrational legislation enacted against Critical Race Theory, resulting in the deletion of historical facts from school curriculum. 
•  Consider recent actions to repress minority voters.
•  Consider the Donald Trump inspired insurrection of our US Capitol on January 6, 2021 to stop the Constitutional certification of the 2020 presidential election. 
•  Consider that 81% of White Evangelicals supported Trump in 2016 and 2020---Most still support him to this day. Trump exhibits a non-Constitutional, autocratic philosophy. I think that some in the political/conservative/Republican church hold a theocratic view of national government, not government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

When the philosophy is, the-ends-justify-the-means, any wrong thing is possible.

I hope for better outcomes, but only time will tell.


1  Moral Majority | Definition, History, Mission, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica.

2  Jones, Robert P.. White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity (p. 103). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

3 Ibid

4  Abortion | Data and Statistics | Reproductive Health | CDC.

5   Cha, A. (2017). U.S. Abortion rate fell 25 percent from 2008 to 2014; one in four women have an abortion. Washington Post.

1 comment :

  1. Your article did a job job exposing right-wing Christian politics--their motives and goals, and how their misguided means somehow justify the end. But this controversy goes much deeper than "Pro-life verses Pro-choice." These are nothing more than "political labels" that respective "team members" wear to oppose the other politically. Everyone still breathing is" pro-life" and everyone who believes in the dignity of personhood is "pro-choice." Abortion rights goes much deeper than these two extreme positions. The current and historical bruhaha surrounding abortion is, in my opinion, about control and power: controlling a woman's sovereignty and her power to make personal and private decisions about her health and life. No one, especially old men in state legislatures or the Supreme Court, should have agency over a woman's body and reach into her private and personal decisions that should be made between her and her God. You can be against abortion and still support a woman's right to choose. Both positions can be true at the same time. If any law affects women and ignores the same legislation against men, that is an unjust law. Women do not and cannot get pregnant by themselves. The abortion issue in the United States is a political weapon used to further the power-seeking agenda of extreme right-wing Christians. Your writings clearly exposed this truth!