Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade

Hardcover | January 15, 2016

byDaniel K. Williams

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On April 16, 1972, ten thousand people gathered in Central Park to protest New York's liberal abortion law. Emotions ran high, reflecting the nation's extreme polarization over abortion. Yet the divisions did not fall neatly along partisan or religious lines - the assembled protesters were farfrom a bunch of fire-breathing culture warriors. In Defenders of the Unborn, Daniel K. Williams reveals the hidden history of the pro-life movement in America, showing that a cause that many see as reactionary and anti-feminist began as a liberal crusade for human rights. For decades, the media portrayed the pro-life movement as a Catholic cause, but by the time of the Central Park rally, that stereotype was already hopelessly outdated. The kinds of people in attendance at pro-life rallies ranged from white Protestant physicians, to young mothers, to African AmericanDemocratic legislators - even the occasional member of Planned Parenthood. One of New York City's most vocal pro-life advocates was a liberal Lutheran minister who was best known for his civil rights activism and his protests against the Vietnam War. The language with which pro-lifers championedtheir cause was not that of conservative Catholic theology, infused with attacks on contraception and women's sexual freedom. Rather, they saw themselves as civil rights crusaders, defending the inalienable right to life of a defenseless minority: the unborn fetus. It was because of this groundingin human rights, Williams argues, that the right-to-life movement gained such momentum in the early 1960s. Indeed, pro-lifers were winning the battle before Roe v. Wade changed the course of history.Through a deep investigation of previously untapped archives, Williams presents the untold story of New Deal-era liberals who forged alliances with a diverse array of activists, Republican and Democrat alike, to fight for what they saw as a human rights cause. Provocative and insightful, Defendersof the Unborn is a must-read for anyone who craves a deeper understanding of a highly-charged issue.

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On April 16, 1972, ten thousand people gathered in Central Park to protest New York's liberal abortion law. Emotions ran high, reflecting the nation's extreme polarization over abortion. Yet the divisions did not fall neatly along partisan or religious lines - the assembled protesters were farfrom a bunch of fire-breathing culture warr...

Daniel K. Williams is Associate Professor of History at the University of West Georgia. He is author of God's Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:400 pages, 9.29 × 6.42 × 1.1 inPublished:January 15, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199391645

ISBN - 13:9780199391646

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. A Clash of Values2. The Political Fight Begins3. Initial Losses4. National Right to Life5. "Abortion on Demand"6. A New Image7. Progressive Politics8. National Battle9. After RoeEpilogueNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"Daniel Williams' compelling book upends conventional ideas about the origins and ambitions of the pro-life movement. Using an impressive variety of sources, Defenders of the Unborn establishes that the identification of pro-life activism and conservatism was not inevitable, and illuminateshow successful and savvy pro-lifers were in the decades before Roe v. Wade. Williams' important and original contribution to the history of abortion politics offers reason to rethink today's debate." --Mary Ziegler, Stearns Weaver Miller Professor of Law, Florida State University College of Law