The Rise of Anti-Abortion Zealots


Marjorie Dannenfelser has promised to corral her lobbying resources and funnel $41 million into getting Donald Trump re-elected and putting pro-life legislators into office. And make no mistake, there is no low for her when it comes to picking a candidate who will vote the way she wants them to.

There was a chapter in my life when I worked in the Right to Life community. I helped establish and run the Pregnancy Crisis Center in the Oregon community I was living in at the time. This was in the early 90s. I was a young mother trying to find my way to raising up good people. So I listened to James Dobson with daily devotion. While some of my close friends were battling the patriarchy of the church structure, I was just beginning the true grieving process of a father lost to war, and the chaos all that created in my life.

I did not split up with James Dobson until Matthew Shephard was murdered. For years, I wrote a check from our meager teacher earnings to Focus on the Family. I didn’t understand at the time what a political action group was, or how those dollars helped fuel cultural wars. But then along came the AIDS crisis and the murder of Matthew, and I began to question everything about the church, about God, about patriarchy, about political action groups, about the marginalization of those outside the faith community.

The minute I began to question, the Evangelical faith community of which I was a part began to push me further and further to the outer margins. I was seen as “broken”. I was considered a pot-stirrer. I was regarded as “not a good Christian woman.” My own mother questioned whether perhaps I had abandoned my faith altogether.

I had not.

But I quit giving money to Dobson once he stated that homosexuality was the precursor to pedophilia. I questioned the intelligence of the pastors I sat under, especially the ones who drew their sermon notes from whatever TV show they happened to watch the night before, Or those who only read the Bible and Joel Osteen.

I stopped attending Women’s Bible Studies and Women’s Retreats. A well-meaning person sent me a copy of a popular woman author’s bestseller, thinking it would help me with my questions. I threw the book across the room and wrote a scathing email to the publisher when I read that it was the obligation of women to buy white bread for their husbands if they wanted white bread. My husband could buy his own damn white bread. I was his wife, not his Girl Friday.  What a bunch of hooey.

I loathed the way the church-at-large marginalized women. Especially women like me who had abortions. We were encouraged to confess our sins in public and seek forgiveness. I recall one particular woman who bore her grief over an abortion like a WWII veteran sporting the Medal of Honor. There is nothing Evangelicals love more than a broken woman that they can fix. Fixing women is, after all, their Superhero power. The more women they fix the more powerful they become.

I suppose there are people who are “pro-abortion” just as there are people who are “pro-war” (John Bolton and Dick Cheney come to mind). But for the most part, the people I’ve encountered in life are not pro-war and are not pro-abortion. I’ve had an abortion but that doesn’t make me pro-abortion. I’ve lost a dad to war but that doesn’t make me pro-war. I am morally opposed to both war and abortions, but I have lived long enough to know that both war and abortions are hard choices that require protecting. Just as Congress knows there are times when we have to wage war to bring about a greater good, there are times when abortions bring about a greater good. Does that offend you? The thought that an abortion can bring about a greater good? Then you should be equally outraged by war, any war. And if you aren’t, then sit down quietly, please.


Pregnancy Crisis Centers have one objective: To persuade young girls who had no business birthing babies to have them. These young girls I encountered were often manipulated by the literature we provided, and our empty promises of “being there for you” to have children they were ill-equipped to provide for.

By the late 90s, I quit my position at the Pregnancy Crisis Center. I left the church which had supported Jerry Falwell Sr. more than it did the women in its congregation. I rejected the wrongheaded bigotry that declared homosexuality a lifestyle and a sin. I stopped reading the Bible as the literal Word of God after reading A.J. Jacob’s book Year of Living Biblically, which wryly revealed the ridiculous ways in which the Bible is used as a hammering tool for subversion and patriarchy.

I no longer believe all things work together for the good, any more than I think women ought to wear headcoverings whenever they enter the church. I don’t believe in a gated community called Heaven. And even if it exists, I don’t want to spend any time there. I don’t like gated communities. A gated community is just a way of communicating to others: You don’t belong.

Make no mistake about it: Marjorie Dannenfelser wants to keep Trump in office not because she likes him – she doesn’t respect Trump – it’s all about the power and control her support of him affords her. It’s about policy, she told NPR shortly after Trump’s pussy tape was released. It’s one thing to react with outrage over Trump’s lack of morality, it’s quite another to trade a Supreme Court position for it., Dannenfelser suggested. She is unwilling to do that. She is all in for the glory of ending Roe v. Wade. But don’t be fooled that will not be enough for her.

This Duke University graduate raised up Episcopalian is a strident Catholic. There is nothing quite so fierce as a self-righteous convert.  What is it about Duke University that it churned out some of the worst of the Millennial policy-makers? Setting national policy based on one’s own bigoted religious beliefs, instead of the common good, is never, ever a good idea. Duke University needs to examine what is it about the culture there that churns out privileged whites whose goal it is to fashion everyone else to their way of thinking, to force their own religious culture upon the rest of us. I thought that was why we went to war in Afghanistan – to fight an oppressive religious regime of old men.

You’d think if Ms. Dannenfelser wanted to take up a cause that would be righteous, she might start within the Catholic Church itself, which it seems may want women to reproduce just so priests have new generations of children to sexually abuse. (My apologies to all my good Catholic friends, but you have to admit it’s a widespread problem that’s been going on for decades. And yes, it’s a problem within the Southern Baptist, too.)

Working for Trump is a family gig. Dannenfelser’s husband, Marty, is a senior policy adviser in the Office of Public Liaison at the White House. Prior to that he was a senior adviser in the office of congressional and intergovernmental affairs at DOE. And you know what a bang up job the Department of Energy and their freedom molecules (once known as natural gas) are doing. Together they Dannenfelsers pull in hundreds of thousands of dollars for their household. I find that most often people who are wholly devoted to a cause are often wholly devoted to their paychecks, too.

When speaking to the media, Dannenfelser likes to bill herself as a Christian Feminist. It makes for a great marketing tool, heading up an organization that has co-opted Susan B. Anthony’s name and legacy while trashing true feminists. (Pick up a copy of Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey for some good reading). But don’t be fooled. Dannenfelser and the lobbying group she heads up, Susan B. Anthony List, are not only anti-abortion, they are anti-birth control. According to a report in the Telegraph, “the organization is opposed to some kinds of birth control – namely, IUD coils and the morning after pill – because in both instances, there’s a chance they could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.”

Under the SBA List intentions, my own mother-in-law, who is most decidedly pro-life, would have been a target for the policy. Perhaps no one has explained to these folks that a woman could pass untold number of fertilized eggs every month since not every fertilized egg implants. Lord. God. A wet dream could be considered a loss of life by SBA’s misguided interpretation, were it not that such legalistic viewpoints rarely, if ever, are directed at the exploits of men. Shouldn’t every sperm cell be considered a potential life loss, too? I mean if you are going to be consistent in your zealotry, Republicans?

Voters. Women specifically. Do not be deceived. Once Roe v. Wade is overturned  – and that is the singular goal of these Evangelical Republicans – they will not slink back into their pews. Fortified by such a victory, they will seek even more power over us. They will find even more things wrong with women they need to right. This isn’t a fight for the unborn. This is a fight to subjugate women. To wield power over any outside their particular brand of legalism. Not just Muslims. But any person of a faith, or lack of faith, that they think needs fixing.

Unless you enjoy living under a religious regime not unlike the one our soldiers died fighting against in Afghanistan, you had better get out the vote. Now. Not a year from now.Do not underestimate religious zealots. History is replete with the damage they have wrought.

Trust me. I know these people. I was once one of them.


Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Where’s Your Jesus Now? Examining how fear erodes our faith (Zondervan).








Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.


Debbie Derrick

about 4 years ago

Thank you , for always speaking up and the truth~!


AF Roger

about 4 years ago

It is all of the above--and much more. Being a mainline Christian, an ordained one at that, I make it a point to maintain some awareness of what other segments of modern Christianity are focused on. I subscribe to the Barna Research Group's regular feeds to hear yet their latest bit of polling and research (I've never seen so many iterations of bar graphs and pie charts in my life!). Several months back, there was an item focused on aspects of "moral and ethical" behavior among Evangelicals. All ten (as I recall) aspects basically came down to, you guessed it, sex and abortion. Not even a hint of care or concern for the use, abuse and destruction of God's Life Support System that supports all life on earth as we know it. Talk about a blind spot the size of the earth itself! Can we talk about abortion by desertification, acidification and extinction? Pro what kind of life, exactly, and how much? As 16-year-old Greta Thunberg so correctly observes, "There is no such thing as being 'a little bit sustainable'. Either you are sustainable, or you aren't." Amen. So here's what I conclude. Why the incessant focus on sex and abortion to the practical exclusion of all other sin? Because it's so bloody easy to identify in OTHER PEOPLE and be judgmental about. As my theological mentor Joseph Sittler so wisely observed, "Evil is never more quietly powerful than in the assumption that it resides elsewhere." In searching for words to lift up the concern for all of Creation and its care in my own Christian circle, I find I have to coin new words and known ideas in new ways. Here's my latest that combines the medical profession's highest law with Genesis 2:15-16... "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, 'First of all, do no harm.'" When we get that one figured out, we can maybe think bout being a little bit pro life. Maybe. Much said about sacrifice at the gathering in Normandy today. No one has sacrificed more for all of humanity's wars and follies than Nature herself. When does she get invited to the conclave? When does she get to present her bill? And we have the gall to call ourselves pro life...


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