Roy Moore, Abortion, and the Presumption of Innocence

Photograph by Brynn Anderson / AP

Flip Benham, an evangelical pastor and anti-abortion activist, recently appeared on an Alabama radio show to speak in defense of Roy Moore’s sexual preferences. Moore, the Republican candidate for the state’s open Senate seat, has recently been accusedof initiating sexual contact with teen-age girls when he was in his thirties; the claims include allegations of sexual assault. One of his accusers, Leigh Corfman, was just fourteen years old when, as she told the Washington Post, Moore approached her outside a family court, where her mother was attending a custody hearing. Later, Moore allegedly drove Corfman to his home, took off his clothes and her clothes, and sexually molested her. Moore has denied the accusations against him, which is more than some of his defenders have done. According to Benham, Moore pursued teen-agers “because there is something about a purity of a young woman, there is something that is good, that’s true, that’s straight, and he looked for that.” The pastor further suggested that there is nothing wrong with an adult man wishing “to date and court a young lady who is fourteen years old with their parents’ consent.”

As the longtime leader of the pro-life group Operation Save America, formerly known as Operation Rescue, Benham broadened the organization’s reach to include anti-L.G.B.T.Q. and anti-pornography efforts. His biggest claim to fame is coaxing the transformation of Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, into a born-again anti-abortion activist. (He even baptized McCorvey himself, “in the backyard swimming pool of a member of his congregation,” according to Vanity Fair.) In Moore, Benham has a candidate who sees eye to eye with him on abortion: Moore is an adherent of the “personhood movement,” which holds that life begins at fertilization, and which aims to outlaw all forms of abortion, as well as the morning-after pill and the contraceptive I.U.D.

Read more at The New Yorker

Jessica Winter

Jessica Winter @ Adrian Kinloch

Jessica Winter is executive editor of newyorker.com and a former editor at Slate and Time. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Bookforum, The Believer, and many other publications. She lives with her family in Flatbush, Brooklyn.