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Wrath of Angels: The American Abortion War

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2000

    The Politics of Protest: Wrath of Angels

    In Wrath of Angels, authors James Risen and Judy L. Thomas chronicle the fallout from the 1974 Supreme court decision handed down in Roe v. Wade that generated a nationwide anti-abortion movement, which, they correctly profess, is ¿America¿s most volatile, most divisive and most irreconcilable debate since slavery.¿ Wrath of Angels published in 1998, details why the battle to end abortion failed to achieve its goal but still managed to become one of the most important and least understood social protest movements in American history. The authors begin their point of inquiry by discussing the rise of the anti-abortion movement in the United States that began prior to Roe. The Roe decision, they argue, effectively caught off guard local anti-abortion in states where it was legal. For example, in Massachusetts abortion opponents, prepared to lobby for change at the state house, suddenly had to switch their focus to Washington. Overnight, Roe elevated the abortion debate in the United States as a national abortion rights policy was born. Despite the movement¿s newfound national prominence, it became increasingly fragmented, as the chances of overturning Roe through polite, mainstream political lobbying seemed to fade. Risen and Thomas, both reporters for the Los Angeles Times and the Kansas City Star respectively, provide a detailed journalistic account of the rise of the anti-abortion movement, its critical role in the creation of the religious right, and the movements subsequent dizzying descent into violence. The authors draw on more than 200 interviews with activists, families and experts on both sides of the growing battle. Through investigative journalism techniques, Wrath of Angels, in plain and punchy language, details the 25-year evolution of this social revolution. Risen and Thomas shed some comparative light on the strengths and the weaknesses of the abortion movement. For example, the road to ending abortion would eventually have two sides; one based on a non-violent approach, the other, violent. Roy O¿Keefe, Harvard graduate, and Vietnam veteran drifter, would eventually become the father of the rescue. Michael Bray, on the other hand, became the father of violence. The book details the lives of these two intensely religious bible-reading baby boomers that prayed to god and were drawn to the same cause and their respective entrée into the abortion wars. Eventually, the violent side would overshadow O¿Keefe¿s pacifist approach. A group of extremists, working to save women from abortion clinics and doctors legitimized their cause with the title ¿Operation Rescue.¿ But ¿Operation Rescue¿ leaders, like Terry Randall, would go too far in their mission to save lives. By 1993, the movement¿s level of violence markedly increased when one member, Michael Griffith, stood outside a Florida clinic and shot and killed David Gunn, a doctor that performed abortions regularly. The shots by Gunn¿s slayer were heard around the world and would forever change the shape and direction of the anti-abortion movement, prompting the first open debate among activists over whether the use of violence could be justified. Perhaps the works most significant contribution to the field of religion and politics is that it details the rise of the moral majority. The abortion issue provided the cohesion necessary for a new religion based social protest movement came alive in American society. Although the anti-abortion movement began in the anti-war protests of Catholic peace activists, it would eventually lead to the first conservative civil disobedience movement lead by Protestant fundamentalists in modern American history. This movement mobilized Protestant fundamentalists for political action for the first time in more than fifty years. But the work has its shortcomings. Most significantly, there is too much detail. The reader gets lost in the lives of the activists, rather than getting lost in an analysis of the cause. Alt

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