PREMISE: The American pro-life movement has long been associated with Roman Catholicism and social and political conservativism, but religious and cultural shifts have unearthed a new face to the movement in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. Nonreligious, and feminist pro-lifers have traditionally been marginalized by the mainstream religiosity of the movement, and their pro-life identities have been contested.

METHODS: Three case studies were conducted: the first of a nonreligious pro-life group, the second of a pro-life feminist organization, and the third at a pro-life conference for Ivy League students. Each organization or conference is analyzed to see what kind of pro-life identities it promotes and the ways in which it asserts its pro-life identity within and outside of the movement. There is a focus on the complexity of contested identities.

CONCLUSION: An increase in the secularization of society combined with the complex identities (religious and otherwise) of the Millennial generation have ushered these groups and others into the heart of the pro-life movement, and thus pro-lifers of every religious, political, and social identity are making their voices heard within the movement. Secular pro-life groups use scientific fact and other secular arguments as basis for legitimizing their pro-life stance. Secular pro-life reasoning is moving into the foreground of the pro-life movement as the primary source of legitimization for both nonreligious and religious pro-lifers. Pro-life feminism relies heavily on the appropriation of early feminist texts in order to authorize a pro-life claim on the term “feminism”, and re-frames abortion as the ultimate exploitation of women. The pro-life conference hosted at an Ivy League institution not only included a focus on religious and political diversity within the movement, but focused heavily on the integration of post-modern philosophy and consistency with pro-life thought and action. Overall, the movement is moving away from a primarily religious basis for opposing abortion and enveloping a greater berth of social, political, and religious thought into a contentious American social movement.


Graham, Mark


Religious Studies


Ethics in Religion | Other American Studies | Politics and Social Change | Social History | Sociology of Culture | Women's Studies


abortion, pro-life, pro-life movement, pro-life feminism

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2014 Abigail E. Rodenfels