- From Anti-Contraceptive Campaigns to Fetal Rights: The Pro-Life Movement’s Attempt to Separate Itself from the Politics of Birth Control
- U.S. Catholic Historian
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 34, Number 1, Winter 2016
- pp. 77-102
- View Citation
- Additional Information
American Catholic pro-life thought has long had a complicated relationship with the Church’s pronouncements against contraception. The twentieth-century American Catholic campaign against the legalization of abortion developed as an outgrowth of the Church’s larger campaign against artificial birth control, but between the late 1940s and the mid-1960s, Catholic lawyers and clerics attempted to sever this historic link. By the late 1960s, they had succeeded in rebranding the pro-life movement as a human rights cause that had nothing to do with contraception. Several prominent pro-life leaders in the 1970s were strong advocates of birth control. Yet in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, controversies over birth control reemerged in the pro-life movement as a result of the movement’s increasing sexual conservatism. In the end many pro-lifers decided that even if they preferred to retain the image of their movement as a human rights campaign that was not directly tied to the politics of birth control, the link between abortion and sexual permissiveness was too obvious to ignore. The result was an effort to revitalize the historical link between the campaign against contraception and the defense of unborn human life.