Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2019 Volume 15 :: Article 7
2019 Volume 15, Article 7
Consensus and Conflict: Abortion, Mainline Protestants, and Religious Restructuring Since 1960

Author: Sabrina Danielsen (Creighton University)

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ABSTRACT

How and why have attitudes on abortion among Protestant institutions shifted? I use a comparative historical approach and study official abortion stances, archival materials, and periodical articles of the largest and most prominent Mainline Protestant denominations from 1960 to today. I find that Mainline Protestant stances on abortion have shifted dramatically over time, but in strikingly homogenous ways across denominations. In 1960, no Mainline Protestant denomination supported abortion access. During a first wave of shifting from 1966-1972, all denominations suddenly supported expanding abortion rights. During a second wave of shifting from 1988-1992, all denominations stated new hesitations to abortion access. I argue that shifting stances on abortion are connected to how a religious group negotiated shifting ethnic, religious, and political boundaries in the United States since the 1960s. During the first wave of shifting, Mainline Protestants were united by a common enemy: Catholics. During the second wave of shifting, the “opponent” shifted from Catholics to Evangelical Protestants, who had different political identities and who were sometimes sitting in the Mainline Protestants’ own pews.

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