Not so long ago, most evangelicals did not believe that life begins at conception
It probably would surprise most American evangelicals in this second decade of the 21st century to learn that the popular position among their forebears of only three or four decades ago was not one of opposition to abortion.
In his book “Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics” (HERE), Jonathan Dudley notes that many Christian theologians throughout history, including many evangelicals of 30 or more years ago, didn’t embrace the now-widespread view that life begins at conception.
Dudley quotes, for example, from an article in Billy Graham’s magazine in which a conservative professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary wrote this:
God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.
But the evangelical movement has long since reversed its prevailing position on that and other biblical issues — while at the same time, of course, hitching its wagon to right-wing Republicanism.
There’s more on these matters in THIS ARTICLE by Fred Clark:
Ask any American evangelical, today, what the Bible says about abortion and they will insist that this [life begins at conception] is what it says. (Many don’t actually believe this, but they know it is the only answer that won’t get them in trouble.) They’ll be a little fuzzy on where, exactly, the Bible says this, but they’ll insist that it does.
That’s new. If you had asked American evangelicals that same question the year I was born you would not have gotten the same answer.
That year, Christianity Today — edited by Harold Lindsell, champion of “inerrancy” and author of The Battle for the Bible — published a special issue devoted to the topics of contraception and abortion. That issue included many articles that today would get their authors, editors — probably even their readers — fired from almost any evangelical institution.