Jonathan Dudley suggested in a recent CNN religion blog that as late as the 1960s the consensus among evangelical thinkers was that life begins not at conception but birth.
.. The author of Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics argued that televangelist Jerry Falwell spearheaded the reversal of opinion on abortion in the late 1970s in order to form a political alliance with Catholics and win voters for the Republican Party.
.. approval of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized most abortion by First Baptist of Dallas Pastor W.A. Criswell, president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the time.
“I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed,” Criswell said.
.. Wayne Dehoney, SBC president for two terms in the 1960s .. “Protestant theology generally takes Genesis 2:7 as a statement that the soul is formed at breath, not conception,” Dehoney said.
.. “I asked him about the biblical statement that God knows us even when we are in our mother’s womb,” Clinton wrote. “He replied that the verse simply refers to God being omniscient, and that it might as well have said God knew us even before we were in our mother’s womb, even before anyone in our direct line was born.”
.. The Southern Baptist Convention revisited abortion in resolutions every year from 1976 through 1980. By 1980 the exclusions had narrowed to saving the life of the mother.
.. Balmer described an “abortion myth” that the Religious Right movement began in direct response to the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. Balmer instead called it “a political movement” actually sparked when the IRS attempted to rescind the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because of its racially discriminatory policies.
Everyone agrees that evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, were late to the pro-life cause, but not everyone agrees about the reason.