How the religious right became anti-abortion

In the 1970s, evangelicals became involved in U.S. politics — but being anti-abortion wasn't in their original agenda.

The issue of abortion is often given credit for being a catalyzing issue

According to CNN in 2016, Donald Trump had the support of 80% of the mostly pro-life evangelical voters. William Martin Senior Fellow for Religion and Public Policy, Baker Institute evangelicals only began political involvement in the 1970s. But it wasn’t abortion that motivated evangelicals to enter the political arena. Many evangelical leaders were running private, tax-exempt “segregation academies."

First president in history to attend the March for Life

The Southern Baptist Convention — the U.S.'s largest Protestant denomination — passed resolutions in 1971. 1974 after Roe v. Wade, affirming women’s right to abortion under restricted conditions. But Moral Majority's Paul Weyrich saw opposition to abortion as a more efficient unifier. Once evangelicals had organized around figures like televangelist Jerry Falwell, their votes became crucial to the GOP. Ronald Regan spoke to 15,000 evangelicals at the National Affairs Briefing while campaigning. Based on data from the Pew Research Center in 2020, 25% of U.S. adults identify as evangelical. Nearly 2/3 of evangelicals believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. They are also a powerful force around Trump: Paula White Donald Trump’s spiritual advisor and in his cabinet: Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Trump is counting on their support in the 2020 election.

Able to get away with winning support

But Trump wasn’t alway pro-life, as he stated on NBC in 1999. Donald Trump. President Trump has a talent for flexibility if he believes that a group that he is speaking to wants to hear something, he will say it for their benefit to please them. If he goes to another group with quite different views, he's able to do. He's able to do the same thing with them, concludes Senior Fellow for Religion and Public Policy, Baker Institute - William Martin.