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Abortion is the most divisive issue in America's culture wars, seemingly creating a clear division between conservative members of the Religious Right and people who align themselves with socially and politically liberal causes. In Defenders of the Unborn, historian Daniel K. Williams complicates this perspective by offering a detailed, engagingly written narrative of the pro-life movement's mid-twentieth-century origins. He explains that the movement began long before Roe v. Wade, and traces its fifty-year history to explain how and why abortion politics have continued to polarize the nation up to the present day.
As this book shows, the pro-life movement developed not because of a backlash against women's rights, the sexual revolution, or the power of the Supreme Court, but because of an anxiety that devout Catholics-as well as Orthodox Jews, liberal Protestants, and others not commonly associated with the movement-had about living in a society in which the "inalienable" right to life was no longer protected in public law. As members of a movement grounded in the liberal human rights tradition of the 1960s, pro-lifers were winning the political debate on abortion policy up until the decision in Roe v.Wade deprived them of victory and forced them to ally with political conservatives, a move that eventually required a compromise of some of their core values.
Defenders of the Unborn draws from a wide range of previously unexamined archival sources to offer a new portrayal of the pro-life movement that will surprise people on both sides of the abortion debate.