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Evangelicals came to their current views on abortion through a combination of ethical reasoning, biblical hermeneutics, historical research, theological reflection, and contemporary American politics. That was my argument in a recent post, which was a response to a post by Jonathan Dudley at CNN. Dudley has just published a well-researched response in The Huffington Post that deserves a response, though I'd like to raise issues that underlie this conversation.

But let me admit that Dudley did catch me committing hyperbole. The title of my response referred to his CNN post as a "fake history." It's certainly not "fake" in this respect: Evangelicals were in fact divided, and many if not most of our leaders were formally "pro-choice" in the 1960s and 1970s. I do not mean to suggest that Dudley's argument in this respect is wrong.

I do think it is misleading in some respects, but that is to be expected when one is trying to do history in a column-length format. To call early evangelicals "pro-choice" in today's context implies that they held pro-choice views in the same spirit as many pro-choice advocates do today. Dudley is correct is suggesting that some pro-choice advocates do indeed believe that the fetus has moral value, and that they don't necessarily think abortion is the principal answer to the control of human reproduction—my apologies if I implied otherwise. The problem is that a large part of the pro-choice community—which includes millions beyond the United States—do indeed fail to see that the fetus has moral value, and do indeed champion abortion as just another method of birth control. This must be the subject of another essay, but ...

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November 2012

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