Document Type


Date of Degree


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Johanna Schoen

Second Advisor

Linda K. Kerber


This dissertation explores women's activism in the anti-abortion movement in the United States, from the 1960s through the close of the twentieth century. I study the transformation of the movement, from its origins in the Catholic Church in the 1960s, to the influx of evangelical Christians into the movement in the early 1980s. My primary sources include organizational records, personal papers, newspapers, legal documents, and oral histories. I analyze women's roles within the movement and the religious contexts that influenced their ideology and informed their choice of tactics.

Anti-abortion activism provided a forum for many religiously conservative women to engage in public debates, shape public policy, and protest publicly. First, I examine the relationships between women who established national anti-abortion organizations with those women who participated in grassroots activism. I suggest that evangelical Protestant women were more likely to hold leadership positions in the mainstream movement because most leaders in the evangelical grassroots wing of the movement enforced a patriarchal organizational structure. On the other hand, progressive Catholic women had considerably more influence in the grassroots organizations they formed apart from the Roman Catholic Church.

Second, I address how women responded to the rise of the New Right and the subsequent influx of evangelical Christians into the movement. I trace the history of violence in the history and suggest that women had prepared the movement to accept the radicalism of evangelical Christians by the 1980s. By focusing on women, I seek to reveal the contradictions between religiously conservative ideas about proper gender roles that many women in the movement espoused and the actual work they performed as activists.


abortion, anti-abortion, Loesch, Mecklenburg, pro-life, religious mobilization


viii, 311 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 284-311).


Copyright 2011 Karissa A. Haugeberg

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