An Analysis on Abortion and US Christian Fundamentalism

EssayAbortion
Feb 3, 2010

Christian fundamentalists hold a noteworthy position in the abortion debate . They argue that abortion is a sin against god and should not become a legal procedure. They base their arguments on their religious beliefs and traditional Christian culture. Since Christianity is a major religion, especially in the U.S., Christian fundamentalists possess an influence that pro-abortion supporters cannot ignore. Christian fundamentalists strongly oppose abortion as they perceive the procedure to be in opposition to the teachings of the bible and of their traditional culture.

Defining Christian Fundamentalists

In discussing U.S. Christian fundamentalist and abortion, individuals must first identify the definition of a fundamentalist. There are various types of Christians, from extremists to progressive individuals, and individuals may fail to identify the difference between some of the variations. Christian fundamentalists are individuals who prioritize traditional Christian beliefs, doctrines, interpretations, and teachings. They perceive the Bible as the direct word of god, believing its content to be historically accurate (Sandeen & Melton, 2022). They believe that biblical stories, such as the seven-day creation and the flood happened. They also assume that predictive stories, such as the Second Coming of Christ and other predictions from the Bible, will occur in the future.

Christian fundamentalism began during the 19th century, around the time of various scientific progress. Scientific innovations, such as the theory of evolution and germ theory, caused changes to society that affected theology. This led certain religious groups to adopt theological modernism to align their faith with the new developments in science and society. Christian fundamentalism was a reaction of American Protestantism to the sudden altercations in Christian beliefs (Sandeen & Melton, 2022). Individuals who opposed theological modernism became part of the fundamentalist movement, which allowed the idea to spread. Additionally, since Christian fundamentalism was a reaction to modernism, the continuous discoveries and innovations in the sciences led the movement to grow.

However, Christian fundamentalists eventually became aggressive in their efforts to oppose theological modernism. Fundamentalists began fighting against schools teaching evolution, geology, and other subjects that may invalidate or question traditional Christian beliefs. This was also the case for abortion since fundamentalists perceived the act as murder in the eyes of their god. The aggressive reactions of Christian fundamentalists have even alarmed the Christian Church to the extent that Pope Francis warned individuals regarding fundamentalists and how the group is a plague to progress (Esteves, 2019). The pope’s perception of the fundamentalists provides a significant point that the group is a hindrance to innovation and even the Christian Church dislikes their methods.

The Bible and Abortion

The definition of Christian fundamentalism indicates that fundamentalists establish their views based on the content of the Bible. Therefore; since fundamentalists oppose abortion, it should mean that the Bible provides texts that forbid the action. However, the Christian Bible does not contain information about abortion or any similar procedure. It does not forbid nor allow the termination of a fetus during pregnancy. John Collins, an Old Testament scholar, stated that there is no divine revelation that addresses the abortion argument (cited in Winter, 2022). This then poses questions regarding the basis of fundamentalist views on abortion. Since the Bible does not provide information, fundamentalists should not be opposing or reacting to abortion.

However, there is a biblical passage that refers to miscarriage and reparations for possible injury. In Exodus 21:22-25, the Bible states that if a woman suffers a miscarriage due to a fight between men, the man who injured her must pay money for the lost earnings that the fetus could have made as a person. Alternatively, the rule “eye for an eye” will be viable if the woman suffers direct harm. This meant that the Bible places more value on the life of the woman than on the fetus. The Bible perceives the fetus as property, similar to an ox or donkey, which could earn money for its owner (Winter, 2022). This infers that the Bible sees an unborn child, not as a human being but only as a potential member of a group. The disappearance of the fetus or a miscarriage only requires monetary reparation that is equivalent to a farm animal and not a person. This, again, raises questions on why fundamentalists strongly oppose abortion when the Bible perceives the fetus as property and not a human being.

Fundamentalists’ Basis for their Abortion Views

Fundamentalists address the lack of direct biblical support for their views through one of the ten commandments and their perception of the beginning of life. Christian fundamentalists, as well as other pro-life advocates, utilize the commandment “you shall not kill” as evidence of the divine prohibition on abortion (Hoffman & Johnson, 2005). Since conservative Christians perceive conception as the beginning of life, abortion becomes a murder act in religious and ethical terms (Green, 2022). Through this evidence, fundamentalists defend their position in the abortion debate. They retain their beliefs on the inerrancy of the Bible through the referencing of the commandment, as well as the collective idea of fundamentalists that life begins at conception. 

Political Agenda Behind Fundamentalism

The abortion debate is not just an ethical or religious argument, it is also a political dispute between different parties . As such, there could be political agenda behind Christian fundamentalism aside from the religious arguments of anti-abortion advocates. According to Hensman (2020), Christian fundamentalism, especially regarding abortion, may be a right-wing scheme to oppose women’s rights movements. The late 19th century led to women receiving more rights in the United States, which many right-wing fundamentalists opposed. Hensman’s (2020) suggestion indicates that the creation of the Christian fundamentalist movement was to oppose women’s rights, regardless of the topic.

While it is true that the late 19th century was a time when women received more freedom and rights, it was also a period of great scientific innovations. As mentioned earlier, the late 19th century introduced the theory of evolution and germ theory. There were also innovations in chemistry, industry, engineering, and other fields (Williams, 2022). These innovations led to theological modernism as the religious community attempts to adapt their beliefs to the changing world. These then resulted in the establishment of Christian fundamentalism. Since the movement does not only oppose abortion but also evolution, geology, and other scientific topics; one cannot argue that fundamentalism’s sole purpose is to hinder women’s rights. Most fundamentalists, if not all, believe in the inerrancy of the Bible which may or may not align with certain political positions. Political parties can use fundamentalism as a tool for their agenda, however, the argument that this is its sole purpose may be lacking.

Impact of Christian Fundamentalism on the Abortion Debate

Since Christian fundamentalism holds a significant position in the debate, they have visible effects on the abortion debate. Their arguments and active efforts have created barriers that prevent states from amending abortion rights (Hensman, 2020). It is important to note that Christian fundamentalists are not the only pro-life advocates; Roman Catholic, Evangelical sects, and other religious and non-religious groups share this position. While they may have varying beliefs, their combined efforts allow for a strong position that is enough to prevent abrupt legal changes. There were also efforts to overturn current abortion laws through various cases that placed limitations on the procedure.

Overturning of Roe v. Wade

The conclusion of Roe v. Wade was one of the most significant decisions in the abortion debate . The case granted women more freedom regarding their right to abortion. However, Christian fundamentalists and other pro-life groups frowned upon the decision. These groups continued to oppose abortion through gradual efforts. Eventually, various cases led to conclusions that limited abortion access. This then resulted in the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision in June 2022. The overturning will reverse the legislation on abortion and make the procedure unavailable in various states (Totenberg & Mccammon, 2022). Since the overturning will reverse the progress since the original decision in 1973, women’s rights advocates may see this event as a major hindrance to their cause.

The overturning also showcased Christian beliefs regarding abortion, especially of fundamentalists. Various religious groups and figures stated their reactions to the new decision. Christian fundamentalists will perceive the overturning as a restoration of biblical values and a testament that abortion is an immoral act against god’s creation (Winter, 2022). Archbishop William E. Lori of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities stated that the church and its people prayed for the overturning of the original 1973 decision (cited in Dias, 2022). Margaret H. Hartshorn, chairman of the board of Heartbeat International, stated that the overturning is a way to build a new culture where women do not consider abortion (cited in Dias, 2022). These statements illustrate that Christians, especially fundamentalists, see the overturning as a victory. This was one of their goals since the 1973 decision and seeing it manifest may further strengthen their fundamentalist views, affecting not only the abortion debate but other topics as well. 

Conclusion

Christian fundamentalism is a movement that bases its beliefs on literal interpretations of the bible. On the topic of abortion, fundamentalism argues that it is a defiance of the “you shall not kill” commandment since a fetus is a human being with a soul. However, since the status of a fetus as a human being is another topic of debate, the basis for fundamentalist abortion views becomes questionable. This leads some individuals to suggest that there is a political agenda behind Christian fundamentalism to oppose women’s rights. Still, since fundamentalists are also active in other societal topics, such as education, a singular political agenda may not be plausible. Christian fundamentalists fight aggressively for their traditional beliefs, and while they may oppose women’s rights with regard to abortion, they do so in an attempt to preserve a culture that has importance to them.

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References

Esteves, J. (2019). Religious Fundamentalism is a “Plague,” Pope Says. National Catholic Reporter. Available at https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/francis-chronicles/religious-fundamentalism-plague-pope-says. Accessed: August 4, 2022.

Dias, E. (2022). For Conservative Christians, the End of Roe Was a Spiritual Victory. The New York Times. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/25/us/conservative-christians-roe-wade-abortion.html . Accessed: August 4, 2022.

Green, S. (2022). Religious Beliefs Give Strength to the Anti-Abortion Movement–But Not All Religions Agree. The Conversation. Available at https://theconversation.com/religious-beliefs-give-strength-to-the-anti-abortion-movement-but-not-all-religions-agree-182500. Accessed: August 4, 2022.

Hensman, R. (2020). Christianity and Abortion Rights. Feminist Dissent, pp. 155-182. Available at https://journals.warwick.ac.uk/index.php/feministdissent/article/view/763/535. Accessed: August 4, 2022.

Hoffmann, J. & Johnson, S. (2005). Attitudes Toward Abortion Among Religious Traditions in the United States: Change or Continuity. Sociology of Religion, vol 66(2). Available at https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4897&context=facpub . Accessed: August 4, 2022.

Sandeen E. & Melton, J. (2022). Christian Fundamentalism. Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at https://www.britannica.com/topic/Christian-fundamentalism. Accessed: August 4, 2022.

Totenberg, N. & Mccammon, S. (2022). Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Ending Right to Abortion Upheld for Decades. NPR. Available at https://www.npr.org/2022/06/24/1102305878/supreme-court-abortion-roe-v-wade-decision-overturn. Accessed: August 4, 2022.

Williams, P. (2022). History of Science. Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at https://www.britannica.com/science/history-of-science. Accessed: August 7, 2022.

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