New abortion laws show Christian Right's continued power
Antiabortion activists outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the annual March for Life.
April 14th, 2011
02:09 PM ET

New abortion laws show Christian Right's continued power

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

So maybe the Christian Right isn't so dead after all.

In fact, the movement that was supposed to have been eclipsed by the fiscally focused Tea Party in recent years and was said to be reeling from the loss of leaders like Jerry Falwell is showing some pretty dramatic signs of life.

In last week’s down-to-the-wire budget battle between the White House and Republican leaders, for example, it was a GOP effort to defund Planned Parenthood – a longtime enemy of Christian conservatives – that emerged as a final stumbling block.

And Family Research Council President Tony Perkins says the last time his conservative Christian movement saw so many victories at the state level – where many legislatures are busy passing new abortion restrictions - was in 2004, when more than a dozen states adopted same-sex marriage bans.

At a moment when the Republican Party has reclaimed power in the House, has taken control of most state legislatures, and is set to begin the process of choosing its next presidential nominee, the Christian Right is playing an increasingly influential role in the party.

Just this week, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, signed a pair of new Kansas laws that ban abortions after 21 weeks of pregnancy and that require minors seeking to terminate pregnancies to get consent from both their parents.

That same day, Tuesday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, also a Republican, signed a new law banning state tax credits for donations to Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers.

With a handful of other states adopting their own anti-abortion measures earlier this year, Perkins says his conservative Christian agenda “has been accelerated forward” in recent months.

Liberal groups accuse Republicans in Washington of pulling a bait and switch on social issues, saying the GOP took back the House last November by campaigning on fiscal issues, turning to hot buttons like abortion only after taking office.

“I think most Americans are saying, ‘What’s going on here? We elected you all to focus on fiscal and economic issues, not social ones, and you’re not doing that,” says Planned Parenthood spokesman Tait Sye.

Sye notes that a bill called the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which would place new restrictions on the healthcare law President Obama signed last year, was the third House resolution introduced this year, which he calls a testament to new GOP fervor on social issues.

But many political experts say that religious conservatives never went anywhere - even if the news media and some quarters of the Republican Party paid them less mind in recent years.

“The biggest reason we’ve seen all this action on abortion since the GOP came to power is that social conservatives are still a very important part of the Republican coalition,” says John Green, an expert in politics and religion at the University of Akron. “And the way parties manage coalitions is to try to give each part something it wants.”

Despite claims by some Tea Party groups that their movement represents exclusively economic conservatives, polling research shows considerable overlap among Tea Party members and the Christian Right.

About half of the Americans who identify as part of the Tea Party movement say they are also part of the religious right or conservative Christian movement, according to a survey released last year by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The survey found that most Tea Party members reflect the views of religious conservatives, as opposed to libertarians, on social issues. Nearly two-thirds of Tea Party members say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and less than 1-in-5 support gay marriage.

And white evangelical Protestants, the base of the Christian Right, are roughly five times more likely to agree with the Tea Party movement than to disagree with it, according to a Pew survey analysis released earlier this year.

“There’s really no daylight between those the two groups,” says Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List, referring to Tea Party and religious conservatives.

She notes that Republican leaders like Indiana Rep. Mike Pence and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann have a foot in both camps, helping to spearhead the House fight against Obama’s budget proposals and its attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.

The Family Research Council’s Perkins says new GOP efforts around abortion are a reaction to President Obama’s first years in office. Obama rescinded the ban on federal funds for overseas abortion providers and signed a healthcare law that many conservatives say subsidizes abortion, though the law’s supporters say it respects the federal ban on abortion funding.

“Politics is a pendulum that swings back and forth - the federal government overreached and now the states are responding,” Perkins says. “A lot of this is a response to the healthcare bill.”

In some states, like Ohio, fights have broken out among anti-abortion activists over how to use their new-found power, with one faction pushing for sweeping new restrictions and the other urging more incremental limits that they say will withstand legal challenges.

“Most of the lawmakers pushing for these abortion bills are not very well known even in their own states,” says Green, because many came to power in just the last year. “Their stars are still rising and that process will depend on whether their bills are successful and whether they are eventually overturned.”

Debates over how far to go in restricting abortion will likely extend all the way up to the Republican presidential primary, with likely candidates already working hard for Christian Right support.

Donald Trump, who says he will announce next month whether  he will run for president, called the Family Research Council’s Perkins last week to chat for the first time, even though the thrice-married Trump isn’t exactly known as a “family values” Republican.

“Trump knows to get to square one in the Republican primary process he has to show people that he’s pro-life,” says Perkins. “Whether he can get to square number two is another question.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Abortion • Barack Obama • Politics

soundoff (513 Responses)
  1. HarvardLaw92

    Good. Let them keep overreaching and set off a backlash. It's just the thing we needed to motivate people to declare war on them.

    April 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  2. dxp2718

    Requiring pregnant minors to have consent from BOTH parents? Doesn't this virtually guarantee a bunch of teen mothers, since pregnant teens are likely to come from single-parent households and not even know their other parent? What a ridiculous law! And what happens when teens have babies? They go on welfare! And what happens to those babies when they grow up? They get pregnant as teens and make more welfare babies! Yet Republicans are against welfare. Yay hypocrisy!

    April 14, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • W247

      umm..how about teaching those teenagers about personal accountability?? DON'T HAVE SE-X!!!!! If you can't take care of the consequences, don't do the deed. PARENTS it is about time that YOU Model personal accountability to your kids too!

      April 15, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  3. BENJI

    Why is the Christian right so anti-christian? They are hypocrites. They whine about abortion, yet when their party controlled the WH, Congress and the Supreme Court from 2001-2006 they DID NOTHING to outlaw it. They target gays, but say nothing about the adultery committed by Limbaugh, Gingrich, beck or the fornication committed by Bristol Palin. If they are going to throw stones then they need to throw them at their own first.

    April 14, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  4. jmb2fly

    Abortion is the ultimate worship we show to our real god. The god of self....

    April 14, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said, "Abortion is the ultimate worship we show to our real god. The god of self...."

      "Roe v. Wade: The Supreme Court ruled that a woman has a const_itutionally guaranteed unqualified right to abortion in the first trimester of her pregnancy.
      She also has a right to terminate a pregnancy in the second trimester, although the state may limit that right when the procedure poses a health risk to the mother that is greater than the risk of carrying the fetus to term.

      13th Amendment : "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convictecd, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

      Women or any part of their bodies, cannot be owned. Not by the government. Not by religious nuts.

      The fetus, less than 24 weeks is not a person. The fetus is not capable of feeling any pain until 24 weeks.

      Women are not broodmares. They have the right to abort the parasitic fetus, until the fetus is viable.

      This is not a religious debate. It is about a woman's right to do what she will, with her own body.


      April 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  5. Jeff

    I agree it isn't my place to tell you that you can't have an abortion, because telling you what you must do with your body isn't my call.

    In return, maybe you could not ask me to pay for them.

    April 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said, "maybe you could not ask me to pay for them."

      Planned Parenthood uses NO taxpayer money to pay for abortions. The law bars Planned Parenthood from using tax money for abortion.

      I donate money to Planned Parenthood, so I do pay for them. I'm a believer in: Woman's body. Woman's choice.


      April 14, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Jeff


      First, I respect your support for something you think is a good thing. I like to help others too.

      Can you see where others might interpret a tax credit for such a donation as general support for it? For what it is worth, I can see where people might object to tax credits for things like donations made to churches.

      April 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Yes, right. Anyone can type anything sitting behind their computer keyboard. First things first, get a job.


      April 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  6. weallgotone

    Mother, 3 children dead after she drives van into river, police say


    Oh well?

    April 14, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  7. David Johnson

    If abortion is illegal, women will seek back alley remedies. We, as a society, must take away as many of the reasons women seek abortions as possible.

    We need to make adoption easier and make it financially possible for a woman to keep and care for her baby.

    Obama has a program to do this. More needs to be done, but with the Republicans controlling the House, funds won't be forthcoming.

    Most of all, we need to make birth control available free of charge, to all women. We need to educate the women on these birth control methods. Remember, the best way to prevent an abortion, is to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

    Psalm 127:3 – Children are a gift of the LORD
    Hmmm... Well, the bible says it, so I believe it. Children are god's gift!

    Notice how god doesn't check to see if a woman is capable of raising a child, before he gives a baby to them?

    Women in poor countries bear children, only to have them die, because Mom has no food.

    Women addicted to drugs are given babies, when they are totally incapable of taking care of themselves, much less a child.

    Girls are blessed with a baby they don't want. Why are babies given to women who don't want them?

    If god would be more careful with giving out gifts/children, abortion wouldn't be needed.

    And remember, there are a lot of women, who god refuses His gift. They would be overjoyed with god's gift. No abortions in their homes!

    God works in mysterious ways.

    We should start real $ex education in school. Not abstinence only. Real education about the use of birth control.

    We will never totally eradicate abortions. Only a god could do that, and he either does not care, or does not exist.


    April 14, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • jmb2fly

      David, we aren't going to see eye to eye on this issue. I used to agree with some of the things you are saying here, but I don't anymore. I don't agree that education and birth control will solve all problems. If they did abortion would already be a thing of the past. Nor do I believe that abstinence education is a silly waste of time. We live in a society that says nothing is wrong; everything you do is O.K. and if you have a problem like an unwanted pregnancy just ignore it/ make it go away. Do not worry about anything but yourself.....Don't face up to your responsibility for your actions. End an innocent life but hurt a convicted criminal.

      April 14, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said, " I don't agree that education and birth control will solve all problems. If they did abortion would already be a thing of the past. Nor do I believe that abstinence education is a silly waste of time. "

      $ex Ed, because of the Christian influence, has consisted of mostly abstinence only rhetoric. Study after study has shown it is worthless. Your belief that it is not a waste of time, is like your belief in god. Both are way light on evidence.

      Real $ex Ed along with the availability of contraceptives, would have a positive effect. As I said only a god could totally eliminate abortions.

      You said, "We live in a society that says nothing is wrong; everything you do is O.K. and if you have a problem like an unwanted pregnancy just ignore it/ make it go away."

      Society says a number of things are wrong. We are talking about a woman's body. Women have the right to choose. You can't force me to give blood to a man who is dying. Why? 'cause it is my body. I have the right to choose.


      April 14, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      We should teach our young women that non-believers build their lives of lies on sand. Not to believe a word they say. Kick them to the curb as soon as they run up to you like a love sick puppy.

      That should do it.


      April 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  8. mrusa

    bible bumpers are worse

    April 14, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  9. mrusa

    we all should know that abortion was made famous by that racist German lady... but who cares...

    April 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  10. Sam C

    The religious right won't be happy until every person in the US lives by their beliefs. Like a christian Iran. There is no country is the world's history that was controlled by religion that was a good place to live.

    April 14, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • oakhill3

      Wrong. The religious right isn't about whether or not YOU believe as they do, although they would prefer you did. They are rising up now, however, because they have been forced to compromise their moral views and religious beliefs for years to accomodate non-believers. And they have had it.

      April 14, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said, "They are rising up now, however, because they have been forced to compromise their moral views and religious beliefs for years to accomodate non-believers. And they have had it."

      Pfui! The sheep are just trying to establish by political means, that which Jesus has never given them, by His return.

      Evangelicals are like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, in the pumpkin patch. Forever waiting. Always disappointed.


      April 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • HarvardLaw92

      They aren't forced to compromise anything. They just can't abide anybody else behaving in ways that they disagree with. If it was just about their own morals, they wouldn't be saying a word. It's about everybody ELSE's morals.

      April 14, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      70% of abortions in the USA are for religious women. This is about believers controlling their sheep by controlling everyone. Why isn't a believer's faith strong enough to prevent them getting pregnant?

      April 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Sam C, you and all your non-believer buddies can leave. No one is stopping you. There's an island in Dubai you all can live on. Whoop it up. Then after a few storms, you're sand island will go back to the sea.

      Bye, bye. No tears will be shed, on earth as it is in Heaven.


      April 15, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Karen

      "No one is stopping you. There's an island in Dubai you all can live on. Whoop it up. Then after a few storms, you're sand island will go back to the sea."

      This country would be better off if you left instead. It's one reason why our country made sure to keep religion and state separated because they understood the intolerance of radical religious nuts like you.

      April 15, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  11. David Johnson

    The Texas history books are rewriting history to give the conservative slant. The objective of this effort, is to create a Christian Nation, a theocracy with Jesus as head.

    A huge campaign is underway, to convince the American people, the founding fathers never intended a separation of church and state. Thomas Jefferson's role as a founding father is played down. In some cases Jefferson is smudged.

    Expect an attack on the 1st and 14th Amendments. The founding fathers will weep.

    Most of the Tea Party are for a Christian Theocracy.

    The Republicans are the puppets of the Religious Right and the Rich.

    You will see an amendment defining marriage as between a man and woman. The repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell", will be in grave jeopardy. Gay rights will dwindle and die.

    Roe Vs. Wade will be reversed. Women will once again be forced to seek back alley remedies.

    Stem cell research will stagnate. The hopes of damaged and sick people will be dashed.

    P_ornography will be illegal. The Religious Right will decide what is p_ornographic , as well as what is art. You will watch television programs approved by the Evangelicals. Lots of reruns of "Growing Pains", starring that Evangelical darling Kirk Cameron. Thank you Jesus!

    Creationism will be taught in school, most likely alongside evolution rather than instead of, but no guarantees.

    Little Johnny will believe in talking snakes and trees that bear knowledge and everlasting life giving fruit. *sigh*

    The rest of the world is spending their time learning real science and math. Good luck Johnny. Can you say: "Would you like fries with that?"

    Prayer will be back in school, but only the one true god, the Christian god, will be given homage. The non-Christians will be allowed to put their heads down on their desks, during the morning worship. They can contemplate their damnation, for not accepting Jesus.

    $ex education will consist of abstinence only. Studies have shown it is a worthless concept. Ladies, cross your legs!!!

    Jesus will be the Head of State! And only the Evangelicals will be able to hear His voice. They will tell the rest of us His will. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

    We will be a slave to a make believe god. If it wasn't so sad, it would be funny.


    April 14, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • jmb2fly

      The sky is falling, the sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!!!!!!

      April 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!!!!!!"

      No, the religious nuts are coming!!!!!


      April 14, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • oakhill3


      April 14, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Dorianmode

      50% of the population of the United States cannot answer the question :"Around what celestial object does the earth rotate ?" (see Pew Research website). Thus it is any suprise the things you mention are accurate ? No. 80% of Europeans tend to agree with the Theory of Evolution. 30% of Americans see evolution as a valid scientific theory. LOL We already live in a Third World country. Keep your babies away from those Texas school board dudes.

      April 15, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • HeavenSent

      How many handles do you have?


      April 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Eric G

      @David: I disagree. I think that religion, and to a greater point, belief in gods will be relegated to the scrap pile of harmless traditional myth. In the future, I see the Abrahamic religions having as much relevance in our daily lives as our horoscope.

      The evidence just keeps stacking up to support scientific theory while no evidence is being presented to support the world view of the believers. The difference between the death spiral of the Abrahamic religions and all the other religions that have been discarded throuought human history is that humanity has no need for a replacement "belief gap filler" this time.

      I look forward to the future.

      April 15, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  12. jmb2fly

    It is inconvenient, you know, raising kids and all. Takes away from what I want to do........ Really just too much trouble to let em live.... I'm all that matters anyway....

    April 14, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Chris

      aren't we simplistic–highly likely you're against birth control too...come out of your puffy white clouds of heaven's judgement and down to earth–and when you get there go adopt 30 kids or so who have been abandoned, abused or birthed in a toilet–harsh, but true...

      April 14, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said, "It is inconvenient, you know, raising kids and all. Takes away from what I want to do........ Really just too much trouble to let em live.... I'm all that matters anyway...."

      Religious pukes should adopt the unwanted babies. ?


      April 14, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  13. gods2fight

    These Bible tards complain about abortion, but have no problems in going to war and killing soldiers, women and children. They have no problem eating GMO foods and polluting the planet their so called Jesus asked to take care. Hyporcites

    April 14, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  14. kent

    please don't let the religious right have their way in this country. they think they know what is right on all things. but they also believe in this invisible god in the sky. and every fiber in me knows this is just a story that gives hope of eternal life. i'd like that too, but it doesn't make it true. please crush their movement.

    April 14, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • David Johnson


      The Republican party serves two masters: The rich and the Christian Right.

      Do all that you can to ensure Obama gets a second term and the Tea Baggers are voted out as soon as possible.


      April 14, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  15. Gary in Tampa

    Joe- you're talking about a blob of cells. If you don't want an abortion, don't get one. I don't give a rats ass what your fairy tale god or your pedophile priests have to say about it.

    April 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Ismail

      Thank God for prayers eeswarnd, and for the grace He gave to Abbey to see the light. Let's pray it will be a saving influence on the young women who are tempted to abort. Well done to the people in 40 Days for Life at Bryan. Changing one heart at a time is what it's about. In this case you changed a very important one. Thank God for the fair and objective coverage which the TV station KBTX gave to this event. Hearts must have been changed in the local media too. And PP are going to court. That means there will be more chances to give a very public witness to the sacredness of life and to present the prolife message in a good light. I will certainly pray here in California for the 40 Day people at Bryan in the coming months. Keep up God's good work!

      April 4, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  16. Up Your Rear Admiral

    Joe, even some plants have circulatory systems. Better watch what you eat, you murderer. Vegetation! Vegetation! Vegetation!

    April 14, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Jim

      There is a difference between killing and murder. Murder is killing with evil intent. To equate killing to eat with murder of a child shows the depth of your stupidity.

      April 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  17. Drew

    So if it ever is made illigal, what then? People are still going to have it done, just in an lifethreatining way. In the end this is going to cost more lives than it will save.

    April 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Michelle

      GOP..life begins at conception and ends at birth.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • oakhill3

      Drew, I do not think it will ever be made illegal again, for the very reason that people WILL find a way to get one, legal or not. So the statement that more lives will be lost in the end is a tad alarmist, yes? At issue here is that MANY people are extremely morally opposed to it, and refuse to have their tax dollars continuing to fund it in any way. Those that don't have a problem with it, can fund it it via donations to their favorite local abortion clinic if they so choose.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • W247

      Michelle – you sound like you are very young and immature. When you grow up a bit, maybe you will think twice about making such judgmental statements.

      April 15, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  18. Observer


    You lost all credibility when you said that anyone "loves abortion". Wake up.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Joe

      If you are for abortion you are for Murder! If we really think about this statement we will understand just how absurd and immoral abortion is. You are ABORTING a baby, a life. I dare you to watch a video of an abortion or even a video showing a heartbeat at 8 weeks. A heart is a living organ! Life Life Life.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Up Your Rear Admiral

      Joe, even many plants have circulatory systems. Better watch what you eat, you murderer. Vegetation! Vegetation! Vegetation!

      April 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  19. brad

    Today CNN also reported that the taliban killed a man who they thought talked bad about their prophet. This is what happens when a society is allowed to take their religious beliefs to the extreme unchecked. It is only a matter of time before these "good christians" decide to make people follow their stupid made up rules at gunpoint. Wanna know what the difference between a religion and a cult is? Marketing

    April 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Harry

      the difference is the extreme muslims murdered this man. the extreme christians want murder to be stopped.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • Observer

      The extreme Muslims seem to be doing just what God wanted in the Bible before Jesus got him to change the rules.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Truth_Hurts

      Harry: that doesn't hold up when you consider the "good" Christians that gun people down in churches while other Christians cheer them or make excuses for their behavior. Nor does it excuse the Christian Right's constant attempts to meddle in other people's private lives.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • Michelle

      Yes, this is how the inquisition started...killing millions of women accused of being witches, those who disagreed with the Church. They made their own laws.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Harry

      truth hurts: thats very true, although most christians do not in anyway condone that. i think the basic belief is that killing another human is wrong, whether it is an unborn child, and abortion doctor, or a murderer on death row. unfortunately there are extremists in every religion, who are in reality not "good" at all.

      as far as people's private lives, would you then excuses them of killing their infant or toddler? that also involves their "private lives" these are still children whether they are born or not, and someone needs to fight for them.

      michelle.. witches... honestly

      April 14, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • oakhill3

      Truth_Hurts – I find that the Christian Right tries to meddle in my life FAR less than the liberal Left, OR the Federal Government. While the Right offers their views to me, they do not demand that I think "their way or the highway", while the Left slams me every which way from Sunday for not thinking the way they do – and then tell ME I'm not being open-minded.

      And Michelle – get your facts straight. What a ridiculous statement, for crying out loud.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Chris

      Amen Brad-you got that right

      April 14, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  20. Joe

    We never left poptart!!!!

    April 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.