Evangelicals – and white evangelicals in particular – are planning to vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in droves. Both candidates suffer from low approval and 'likeability' ratings and many evangelicals are planning to abstain or vote for a third candidate as a protest. But in Clinton's case, the issue that makes her absolutely unelectable is that she is pro-choice – in favour of a woman's more or less unrestricted right to choose to abort her baby.
For most US evangelicals and Roman Catholics, life begins at conception. This is not a view evangelicals have always held – the Southern Baptist Convention in 1971 called for legislation to allow abortion under conditions such as rape, incest, severe fetal deformity, or damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.
Neither is it the case that abortion has always been a political deal breaker for evangelicals, or decided along party lines. Republican president Ronald Reagan was personally pro-life but when he was governor of California he signed into law the Therapeutic Abortion Act to reduce the number of back-street abortions.
But abortion became a key political battleground with the rise of the religious right and its ideological identification with the Republican party. And according to Randall Balmer, a Columbia University professor and author of Thy Kingdom Come, this was a deliberate policy rather than a spontaneous revulsion at the consequences of Roe v Wade.
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