(University of Paderborn)

“Complicity and the Christian Right: Challenging Anti-Abortion Logic”

Ever since Roe v. Wade in 1973, conservative Christians have waged war against reproductive rights in the US. A key component of their fight has long been the language of complicity. In my paper, I will first analyze the Christian Right’s complicity rhetoric and logic in anti-abortion efforts by drawing on a wide range of examples such as Christian websites, billboard campaigns, and the 2014 Supreme Court Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision. The combination of individualism and anti-structuralism at the core of evangelical Protestantism accounts for their understanding of complicity: In most cases, they dichotomously differentiate between good and evil and seek non-complicity by refusing to participate in wrongdoing. At times, however, they also strategically rely on more progressive notions of complicity that take human interdependency into account when it serves their argument.

In a second step, I will use complicity as a critical lens to dissect the Christian Right’s agenda. Complicity critique helps me reveal the Christian Right’s complicity in fostering social injustices related to their fight against reproductive rights. Since Black women and women of color are among those most affected by the fight against pro-choice, the anti-abortion movement perpetuates the long legacy of white supremacy in the American Church and the US at large. The struggle against reproductive justice furthers social injustices so that the Christian Right and the anti-abortion movement are complicit with racism, sexism, and their many intersections.

In a third and final part, I begin to ponder ways of challenging the anti-abortion movement and successfully calling them out on their complicity. (How) Can they be convinced that their agenda does great harm? How can you reach especially those who consider themselves ‘well-intentioned’? I caution that human’s affective attachments to their beliefs render this a particularly difficult endeavor.