How abortion, religion are interwoven – Arkansas Online

wp header logo 1167
Spread the love

When the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in all 50 states, it sparked a religious realignment that continues to unfold, nearly a half-century later.
Catholics and white evangelical leaders, divided by doctrine and suspicious of one another for much of the nation’s history, found common ground in opposing the liberalization of the nation’s abortion laws.
Early on, the Roman Catholic Church, nearly alone, led the fight. Eventually, Southern Baptists and Pentecostals would join them, along with millions of other conservative Protestant Christians.
The role of faith is obvious at the annual March for Life in Washington, with some marchers carrying banners identifying their religious affiliation or their diocese or their area Knights of Columbus chapter.
A few even carry the yellow and white Vatican flag.
Abortion rights supporters and opponents find few points of agreement. But both sides acknowledge the important role churchgoers have played in mobilizing opposition to Roe v. Wade and in restricting abortion in dozens of states.
Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, said grassroots volunteers from Catholic and evangelical churches have been “critical” to her side’s success in Arkansas and across the nation.
“The base of the pro-life movement is people of faith,” she said.
Nonetheless, Arkansas Right to Life “is not a religious organization because we welcome anybody that agrees with us and wants to help us to protect life.”
Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, objects to the role Catholic bishops have played in hindering abortion rights.
Faith-based arguments that began decades ago are still continuing, she said, adding, “Religion is the reason for the debate.”
Churches have been effective at mobilizing young anti-abortion activists and helping them to attend anti-abortion events, said Manson, whose Washington-based nonprofit group supports abortion rights.
When the rallies occur, “a lot of times it’s students from Christian schools and Catholic schools [who attend]. Their schools or diocese pay for them to be bused there. … They find them the lodging and they pay their meals and that’s who is coming to the meetings.”
The National Right to Life Committee, which describes itself as the nation’s largest and oldest grassroots anti-abortion organization, was founded in 1968 by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
It eventually split off, a move that helped it gain broader Protestant backing.
Initially, Southern Baptist and Catholic views on abortion were sharply divergent.
In 1971, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in St. Louis had adopted a resolution calling on Southern Baptists “to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”
The Assemblies of God initially had little to say on the topic. Today, it takes an unambiguous stand in support of stricter abortion laws.
Early on, “It was the Catholics that stood their ground and said, ‘This is wrong, and we’re going to do everything we can to work against it,'” said Mimms, a member of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Benton.
Eventually, the Southern Baptist Convention came to oppose Roe v. Wade. And a former Southern Baptist minister, Mike Huckabee, would go on to sign anti-abortion legislation in Arkansas as governor.
“That was the major shift, when Mike Huckabee became our governor,” Mimms said.
“For the first time ever, we had a pro-life governor that was coming to us and saying, ‘What can I do to help … get pro-life laws passed, and would even include our bills into his legislative package,'” she said. “That was enormous.”
In an email, Huckabee said Catholics led the fight long before Protestant Christians joined in.
“We are indebted to our Catholic brothers and sisters for having raised this issue and … [for] keeping it in the forefront,” he wrote. “Evangelicals didn’t come along until the [19]80s.”
Southern Baptists joining the anti-abortion movement in the late 1970s faced opposition from within their own denomination, he noted.
“At the time, we were considered fringe because of the very strong views [we held] on the sanctity of life,” he said.
Eventually, “evangelicals in general and southern Baptist[s] in particular began to realize that this was not a political but a moral and biblical issue,” Huckabee added.
Jerry Cox, founder and president of the Arkansas Family Council, says Catholics played a crucial role in mobilizing opposition to abortion.
“The Catholics, of course, have been pro-life since way before Roe v. Wade. Their position on abortion, I think, it was very clear,” he said. “Protestants and evangelicals were a little bit late to the game.”
Over the years, the anti-abortion movement has been strengthened by the participation of evangelicals, Mimms said.
“They joined us and we’re happy to have them,” she said.
A 2019 poll by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Pew Research Center illustrated the importance of evangelicals to the movement. See
Seventy-seven percent of white evangelicals said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while 20% said it should be legal in all or most cases.
Among self-identified Catholics, 56% said it should be legal in all or most cases, while 42% said it should be illegal in all or most cases.
However, the survey showed a chasm between regular Catholic churchgoers and those who attend less frequently or not at all.
Sixty-seven percent of Catholics who said they attended Mass weekly or more often said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Only 32% of Catholics who attend less than weekly shared that view, the survey showed.
A 2018 Gallup Poll, which worded the questions differently, showed 22% of Catholics believing abortion should be legal in all cases and 22% saying it should be illegal in all cases. A majority, 53%, said it should be legal “only under certain circumstances.” Another 3% were undecided. See
Bettina Brownstein, a cooperating attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, has successfully challenged several of the state’s anti-abortion laws over the years.
Asked about the opposition the abortion rights movement faces in this state, she said, “I think it’s religiously motivated. They’re all fundamentalist Christians and Catholics.”
Black Protestants, white Mainline Protestants and the religiously nonaffiliated tend to favor abortion rights, the Pew Research Center polling showed.
Brownstein, who is Jewish, said anti-abortion activists are using the law to impose their religious beliefs on others.
“Mainstream Judaism, you know, doesn’t agree with that anti-choice position,” she said. “In that sense, we feel that our religious liberties are being curtailed and not respected.”
If it were Catholics alone, involved in the struggle, the anti-abortion movement would have been far less successful, Manson said.
“Until the ’70s, [evangelicals] were much more focused on heaven and the next life or the next world and not too worried about this world,” she said. “When evangelicals woke up and got politically involved, it just infused this incredible amount of energy [and] of money behind the movement. It supercharged it, really.”
With the U.S. Supreme Court weighing the the constitutionality of a Mississippi law barring most abortions after 15 weeks, Mimms is hopeful that Roe v. Wade will soon be overturned.
That would allow sweeping abortion restrictions to go into effect in Arkansas as well.
While it would be an enormous victory for anti-abortion forces, it won’t be the end of the debate.
Even if abortion were banned in Arkansas, “there will be states where abortion will be available and Arkansas women will be going there to have abortions, some of them,” Mimms said.
For Mimms, her Christian beliefs and her anti-abortion activism are interwoven.
“We have inherent dignity that we were given by our Creator,” she said.
“I don’t let discouragement and frustration and all that get me down because I know the importance of it,” she said. “My faith is what brought me to this movement [and] keeps me in this movement.”

Print Headline: How abortion, religion are interwoven
Copyright © 2022, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.
All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.
Material from the Associated Press is Copyright © 2022, Associated Press and may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. Neither these AP materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and noncommercial use. The AP will not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omissions therefrom or in the transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof or for any damages arising from any of the foregoing. All rights reserved.


Read Previous

Wike Demands Redeployment of DPO, NSCDC Officer Fingered in Illegal Refinery Activities – THISDAY Newspapers

Read Next

Lawsuits could expose Trump business practices as voters consider 2022 midterms – NPR

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.