Last week’s Florida Supreme Court decision on abortion gave supporters and opponents of reproductive rights simultaneous victories and setbacks. The ruling outlaws abortion after six weeks but allows the issue to ultimately be decided by voters in November’s election. 

The victory for anti-abortion activists is decisive, but temporary. 

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, abortion rights have been maintained in virtually every election where they have been on the ballot. This electoral wave began just a few weeks after the Dobbs decision, when the liberal bastion of progressive wokeness, Kansas, upheld a woman’s right to choose. 

The Florida decision prompted the state’s most prominent Florida Man, former and presumptive GOP nominee for President, Donald Trump, to announce his policy proposal on abortion. In a video on his Truth Social platform, he took credit for overturning Roe v. Wade, but echoed what many abortion-rights opponents have always said about the issue: It should be left to the states. 

This has angered many evangelicals, who have pushed for a nationwide abortion ban since Roe was overturned. What they are unwilling to admit, however, is that Trump called them on their long-term bluff. He revealed that their “Let the States Decide” battle cry was always a hoax. 

A lot of digital ink and emotional energy has been spent lamenting how Trump supporters mindlessly follow him, regardless of what he does. What doesn’t get talked about enough is what an expert follower Trump is. Part of his (deranged) brilliance is his ability to instinctively thread the needle on public opinion to give just enough people what they want. 

In short, he knows how to read a room. The room is saying, “Protect reproductive rights.” Many of those in the room who aren’t saying that have spent decades saying, “States should decide.”

So, with his statement, he has earned the votes of some of those looking for a reason to support him, but for whom abortion bans are a bridge too far. And he is forcing anti-abortion evangelicals to either step away from him or implicitly admit they didn’t believe what they said they believed about the rights of states to legislate for or against abortion. 

I was well into adulthood before I realized anti-abortion fervor was relatively new in the evangelical consciousness. For a movement obsessed with the dictates of Protestant white men from a century ago, it was jarring to discover that Protestant white men a century ago didn’t have much to say about abortion. 

In retrospect, though, this shouldn’t have been surprising. What Randall Balmer, a Good Faith Media contributing correspondent, has labeled the “Abortion Myth” was really just an attempt to distract from the racist motivations of the movement. 

For the Republican party, the abortion issue was used to soften the PR impact on old-school Dixiecrats flooding into their fold. 

The battle cry was “Abortion=Murder,” and it worked. I know it worked, because it worked on me. 

Everything about my background pointed toward an inclusive, expansive take on faith and politics that honored the dignity and rights of all. 

I came from an organized-labor family. My dad worked in a tire factory where his brother was the long-time union President (United Rubber Workers 746). 

East Texas in the 1980s was steeped in racism, but I had the good fortune of attending public schools with students and teachers who had been racialized as Black. Some of those teachers had been among the first to integrate the schools just a few years prior. I had many personal and structural biases that would eventually need to be reckoned with, but these pioneers set the stage for me to begin that process. 

I was one of the kids who believed everything the Sunday School teachers and camp pastors taught me about Jesus’ radical love for everyone, even if they didn’t believe what they were teaching. So, while it would be many years before I embraced God’s affirmation for everyone, regardless of gender expression or sexuality, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that it would happen eventually. 

But they hooked me with “abortion is murder” when I was entering college. I was a prime target. I cared about life, I tried to follow the teachings in the Bible as best as I could, and I had yet to develop the cognitive abilities to understand ethical nuance and gray areas. 

Nor had I known anyone who had ever had to contemplate terminating their pregnancy. Or so I thought. 

What I found out was that several women I knew, including some who consider themselves “pro-life” voters, have had to decide to terminate a pregnancy. 

I also learned about the numerous cultural and theological differences in how people determine when life begins, even among people who share my Christian faith.

But most convincingly, I was asked a question by an acquaintance that would reveal to me what I actually believed about the subject: “If life truly begins at conception, then what should the sentence be for women who choose to terminate their pregnancy?” 

My response was to change the subject to doctors who perform abortions, because changing the subject is what I was discipled to do. But they wouldn’t let me get away with it, and I couldn’t answer the question. 

At that moment, I had to confront the reality that I didn’t believe what I had been saying for decades about the subject. I was just looking to end all difficult conversations.

The reality is that only the most extreme, pathological pro-life advocates believe there should be any punitive “justice” for women who terminate their pregnancies. Most anti-abortion voters I’ve ever encountered believe our response to women who have abortions should be grace and love. This reveals what they really believe about the subject because no one who actually believes all abortions are murder would respond with such grace. 

I have since learned that what I believe about when life begins doesn’t matter. This isn’t to say there aren’t legitimate, ethical conversations to be had. It just means that my voice is never the first or last word on the subject that will never have any bearing on my physical body.  

Who knows how much pain I caused and shame I perpetuated just by repeating a trope I didn’t even believe?

Conservative evangelicals are at a moment of reckoning. I suspect they will pretend to be furious at Trump just before returning to him. I also suspect that in November, they will learn just how little they believe the words they have been saying. 

Share This