On Monday's Full Frontal, Samantha Bee revealed a shocking fact about the religious right: Most evangelical Christians avoided abortion politics until turning pro-life after a very deliberate, and very weird, propaganda campaign.
Even more shocking? That campaign came about because of desegregation.
Bee, playing a 1973 newscaster on the day of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, explained that the Southern Baptist Convention actually endorsed the decision at the time (abortion was more of a Catholic concern, after all). And Roe was decided 7-2 by mostly Republican-appointed justices. So at the time, nobody would have imagined that evangelicals would mobilize in a backlash against Roe, form the modern religious right, and flock to the Republican Party.
How did this happen? Bee showed a clip of Dartmouth professor Randall Balmer, who also laid out this history in a 2014 feature for Politico Magazine.
Balmer said that evangelical leaders, including Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich, held a conference call to discuss what they should mobilize around now that segregation was over. "Several people suggested possible issues," Balmer said. "Finally a voice on the end of one of the lines asked, 'How about abortion?'"
"Were they founding a movement, or deciding what toppings to get on their pizza?" Bee said incredulously.
Bee also interviewed Frank Schaeffer, a filmmaker who says he helped start the modern pro-life movement — which he now calls "the single greatest regret of my life."
Schaeffer helped his father, Francis Schaeffer, and Dr. C. Everett Koop make films and book series, including Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, and shop them around to evangelical churches to try to convince congregations that abortion was evil.
It didn't work at first, Schaeffer said. It took a lot of convincing. But eventually it caught on.
Bee showed some clips of the films, and they really are incredibly weird — bleak, Fellini-inspired surrealism; beaches and conveyor belts full of baby dolls; a real toddler in a cage.
You have to see it to believe it. It's the kind of thing that makes Bee scream, "Agh! Okay, I'll cancel my abortion, just call off your evil mimes!"