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It is regrettable that Jon A. Shields ["The Accidental Activists",May/June] found it necessary to take a gratuitous swipe at Kristen Luker's brilliant and courageous book, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, in order to heap praise on Ziad Munson's The Making of Pro-Life Activists. Not having read Munson's book, I do not doubt that he deserves Shields' plaudits. Having taught Luker's book for years, I know she deserves better.
I wonder what in Luker's book Shields thinks would be devastated (to use his word) by Munson's findings. He quotes Munson as saying that his pro-life activists did not seek out activism. Activism emerged as "an unintended result of their ordinary lives." But that's Luker's point also. She interviewed activists on both sides, all women, but not just pro-life, and found that they got actively involved in the debate because of the lives they led, lives comparatively centering more on their families or on their careers. They were not shock troops of any religious or political party. Shields cites Munson's finding that religious conviction was often the result, rather than the cause, of his respondents' participation in the movement: "One out of every five activists in my sample found their religious faith either contemporaneously with or after their mobilization into the pro-life movement." In a summary of her own findings, Luker writes, "almost 20 percent of the pro-life activists in this study are converts to Catholicism." Where is the devastation?
The religio-political landscape has changed greatly since Luker's book was published twenty-five years ago. Conservative Protestants are now much more likely to be involved in the pro-life movement, which was at first populated primarily by Catholics. The controversy itself has greatly exacerbated, perhaps even caused, the wide-scale political polarization our society is plagued with today. But Luker is a sensitive and responsible guide to the way things looked in the immediate wake of Roe v. Wade. ...