On Wednesday (1), a law that prohibits all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, came into effect in Texas, after an ultrasound can detect whether the fetus’ heart is beating, which happens around the sixth week of gestation. Most women don’t even know they are pregnant.
When deciding not to block the legislation, the Supreme Court of the United States drew the map to ban the procedure almost definitively in the rest of the country. Republicans have been salivating for decades at this time. Now is the time, as they like to say, to “kick ass” of Roe vs. Wade.
This is the name of the case, in 1973, which led to the decision of the highest American court to recognize abortion as a constitutional right of women. For nearly half a century, anti-abortion activists, with a helping hand from the Republican Party, have been asking the Supreme Court to reverse the deliberation it took 48 years ago — that is, to admit that the Constitution does not give a peep about abortion, for or against him.
One of the court’s conservatives of his day, Antonin Scalia (1936-2016) argued that left-most colleagues had, in the past, established political rights without worrying about whether there was any constitutional carpet underneath. “Someday you will have a very conservative Supreme Court and you will regret that approach,” he predicted. That day has arrived.
The Texan chapter is a victory for religious fingerprint conservatism that, like an accordion, dwindles and swells seasonally in the nation that boasts of respecting the individual’s right to make choices with minimal state intervention — even regulating access to civilians to arms is a national taboo. Where has the government ever seen the nose in my life? In the millions of women, that’s fine. Abortion will become more difficult for everyone, and unsurprisingly the poorest will suffer the most.
Aversion to abortion has electrified conservative voters for years, a cause that saw its voltage exponentially in the Donald Trump era. But the flag has not always been a priority for white evangelicals, an important troop allied with the former president who lost his job to Democrat Joe Biden.
A good thermometer is the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It is the largest evangelical denomination in the country, home to two national televangelist stars, Jerry Falwell (1933-2007) and Billy Graham (1918-2018). In the same decade as Roe vs. Wade, SBC has published very flexible resolutions on the procedure. It said it was working for legislation that would allow abortion in cases such as “rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully verified evidence of the likelihood of harm to the mother’s emotional, mental and physical health.”
At the time, evangelicals were not in love with this struggle because they saw it as a Catholic issue. They didn’t want to blow a Vatican flag, sums up Dartmouth College historian of religion Randall Balmer. The willingness to buy this fight took off for good in the 1980s, with the victory of Republican Ronald Reagan, from whom Trump borrowed the slogan Make America Great Again.
Another Supreme Court judgment gave a little push to the political awakening of so-called white evangelicals in America. In 1971, the court ruled that a private school that practiced racial discrimination could not claim tax exemption. Many of them were led by clerics in slave-holding states like Mississippi.
They took in white students who migrated to the private system after — she, again — the Supreme Court banned public schools from segregating on the basis of skin color.
“When the IRS threatened to terminate tax breaks, it provoked Jerry Falwell and others to become politically active,” says Randall Balmer. “The rise of the religious right was the culmination of these efforts. Abortion was added to their political agenda towards the end of the decade.”
China, Middle Land
Here’s the cue for megashepherds like Billy Graham to go on to say that every Christian who cares for the title has an obligation to stop “the murder of unborn babies.”
“There was a pro-life current before that, but it wasn’t a dominant issue,” says theologian Timothy George, founding director of the Beeson Divinity School. [movimento católico vizinho ao pentecostalismo] became much more vocal after Roe vs. Wade. Then evangelicals teamed up with Catholics to solve this problem.”
In 2021, they won a crucial battle. Texas law has a trump card over its predecessors: it allows any citizen to prosecute anyone who facilitates an illegal abortion — almost everyone now —, even the app driver who takes a woman to a clinic. It’s war.