Nowadays, you can't swing an IUD around without it smacking a pro-life evangelical Christian right in the bloody fetus protest sign. But did you know that all of these eternal Biblical truths religious conservatives trot out in making their argument that life begins at conception are actually at odds with much more reasonable, pro choice stuff in the Bible? And did you know that until until about 30 years ago, many prominent American evangelicals believed that life didn't begin until birth?
I mean, we've kind of been over this — there are a lot more passages in the Bible that imply (or insist) that the big man upstairs doesn't consider a zygote to be the same sort of being with the same value as, say, a mailman or a trapeze artist than there are passages that mention abortion. Probably because there are zero Bible passages that mention abortion, as in "don't do it." In fact, in Exodus, God talks about how if an assailant harms a pregnant woman and her pregnancy is ended as a result, the assailant only owes the woman's husband a fine. But if he hurts the woman beyond the miscarriage? Ruh-roh.
"When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."
So, wait — the Bible specifically says that a woman is much, much, much, much, much more important than a fetus? What sort of crazy talk is this?
According to author Jonathan Dudley on CNN, evangelical Christians in America used to be firmly on Team Pro-Choice right after Roe v. Wade. Christianity Today even put together a whole big issue on birth control and abortion, to clarify to their readers what God would have thought about what the Romneys creepily refer to as "tender, tender" issues.
In the leading article, professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth:
"God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: 'If a man kills any human life he will be put to death' (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul."
The magazine Christian Life agreed, insisting, "The Bible definitely pinpoints a difference in the value of a fetus and an adult." And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.
So what happened? Jerry Falwell and the "Moral Majority" happened. In the late 1970's, evangelical Christianity's Jabba the Hutt formed an alliance with the Catholic Church, which stood staunchly against birth control, abortion, and homosexuality in his attempt to form a voting bloc that would oppose the sexual revolution, according to Dudley. By 1980, those "you guys, the Bible clearly states that fetuses are not people" style op-eds had disappeared in favor of the now-familiar rhetoric that God forms every fetus in the womb and knows all of us from the moment we are conceived (interestingly, that oft-cited passage is about the specific birth of a specific prophet, not about every birth ever. Plus, if God's so omnipotent, then why would he keep putting babies into women who he knows are just going to have abortions? Deploy the B-squad into the uterus of the unwilling, that's what I say. But I digress.)
Any conservative Christian who insists that abortion is wrong because "the Bible" is woefully uneducated about their own history, explains Dudley.
...before casting their ballots, such evangelicals would benefit from pausing to look back at their own history. In doing so, they might consider the possibility that they aren't submitting to the dictates of a timeless biblical truth, but instead, to the goals of a well-organized political initiative only a little more than 30 years old.
Except you guys, Ryan/Santorumesque Catholics. You've been on Team No Birth Control almost forever, so you're off the hook.