Guide The Roots of Racism and Abortion

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The Catholic Church, in other words, practiced and preached racial justice even while buttressing racial enclaves and de facto segregation academies. Whether it was in cities or suburbs or through race-blind or explicitly racist logic, white Catholics resisted integration through the s and s.

And at this very moment of racial retrenchment, abortion became increasingly important to Catholics, as well as national politics. Catholics had long officially opposed abortion. But with the rise of organized abortion rights groups across the country in the s, the Church began marshaling considerable resources and mobilizing its faithful to oppose legalization. By , Richard Nixon was running a reelection campaign that was fueled by racist dog whistles to white Southerners and to white urban and suburban Catholics.

As abortion and resistance to integration took center stage nationally, it played out among the white Catholic voters in Michigan with special force. Michigan voters were roiling over attempted school integration plans.

Rep. Steve Cohen Calls Out Racist Roots Of Anti-Abortion Movement

The Democratic primaries had already highlighted white discontent with the victory of segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace. Adding fuel to an already fiery politics was a statewide referendum on whether to legalize abortion. The abortion referendum—known as Proposal B—was shaped by this racially charged backdrop. Polling told them that they needed black votes to win, but racial tensions were so high that Catholic abortion leaders literally segregated their anti-abortion campaign.

Anti-abortion activists produced one set of images featuring images of black babies for African American voters. They produced imagery with white babies for white and black voters alike. The reason? Much of the literature directed toward the black community described abortion as black genocide.

And white activists had seen up close the depth of anti-black animus among white Catholic voters. Campaign organizers feared that if white Catholics saw images of black babies in anti-abortion campaign literature they would come to support abortion.


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At the same time, anti-abortion campaign literature emphasized images of white mothers holding white babies. Images of black mothers, however, were completely absent. This editorial choice implicitly spoke to the ways in which white voters viewed black mothers as welfare queens and baby-making machines.


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The visual ghettoization of black people in anti-abortion literature, in other words, coincided with and reinforced the actual ghettoization of black people through Catholic opposition to integration. Richard Nixon won decisively in Michigan and a record number of Catholic voters supported him because of his opposition to school integration and abortion.

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Needless to say, conservative Republicans paid close attention. In the aftermath of the election, anti-abortion and anti-integration politics yielded dividends. Nearly half a century later the image of white Catholic young men professing their faith, marching against abortion, and doing so while wearing their support for Trump on their bodies, underlines the conservative capture of white Catholics.

Anti-abortion politics remains a bulwark of the Republican Party.

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The IRS was not placated. Connally , Bob Jones University was the final straw.

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As Elmer L. Falwell, Weyrich and others were undeterred by the niceties of facts. In their determination to elect a conservative, they would do anything to deny a Democrat, even a fellow evangelical like Carter, another term in the White House.

Black genocide - Wikipedia

But Falwell and Weyrich, having tapped into the ire of evangelical leaders, were also savvy enough to recognize that organizing grassroots evangelicals to defend racial discrimination would be a challenge. It had worked to rally the leaders, but they needed a different issue if they wanted to mobilize evangelical voters on a large scale. In Iowa, Sen. Dick Clark, the Democratic incumbent, was thought to be a shoo-in: Every poll heading into the election showed him ahead by at least 10 percentage points.

On the final weekend of the campaign, however, pro-life activists, primarily Roman Catholics, leafleted church parking lots as they did in Minnesota , and on Election Day Clark lost to his Republican pro-life challenger. Correspondence between Weyrich and evangelical leaders fairly crackles with excitement. In a letter to fellow conservative Daniel B.

Weyrich, Falwell and leaders of the emerging religious right enlisted an unlikely ally in their quest to advance abortion as a political issue: Francis A. Schaeffer teamed with a pediatric surgeon, C. In the early months of , Schaeffer and Koop, targeting an evangelical audience, toured the country with these films, which depicted the scourge of abortion in graphic terms—most memorably with a scene of plastic baby dolls strewn along the shores of the Dead Sea.

By , even though Carter had sought, both as governor of Georgia and as president, to reduce the incidence of abortion, his refusal to seek a constitutional amendment outlawing it was viewed by politically conservative evangelicals as an unpardonable sin. Never mind the fact that his Republican opponent that year, Ronald Reagan, had signed into law, as governor of California in , the most liberal abortion bill in the country. Nevertheless, leaders of the religious right hammered away at the issue, persuading many evangelicals to make support for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion a litmus test for their votes.

Carter lost the election for a variety of reasons, not merely the opposition of the religious right. He faced a spirited challenge from within his own party; Edward M. After the election results came in, Falwell, never shy to claim credit, was fond of quoting a Harris poll that suggested Carter would have won the popular vote by a margin of 1 percent had it not been for the machinations of the religious right.

But it is certainly true that evangelicals, having helped propel Carter to the White House four years earlier, turned dramatically against him, their fellow evangelical, during the course of his presidency. And the catalyst for their political activism was not, as often claimed, opposition to abortion. Although abortion had emerged as a rallying cry by , the real roots of the religious right lie not the defense of a fetus but in the defense of racial segregation.

The Bob Jones University case merits a postscript. A public outcry forced the administration to reconsider; Reagan backpedaled by saying that the legislature should determine such matters, not the courts. Three years later Reagan elevated the sole dissenter, William Rehnquist, to chief justice of the Supreme Court. Skip to Main Content. Continue to article content. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter.