Commentary By Suzanne Fortin
The InterimIn my experience, most pro-lifers don’t vote according to their pro-life values. During an election, the majority of pro-lifers look for the party or the politician who offers the best overall “package;” that is, the best policies and the greatest ability to govern and represent their interests.
In their minds, pro-lifers place various economic, social and political stances alongside their pro-life views, and these various issues are given equal if not greater importance. The belief that the right to life is the most fundamental right is not given the priority it deserves.
The pro-lifer who does not vote pro-life is not much different than the average person facing an undesired pregnancy. He doesn’t make the right to life an absolute value, but weighs clusters of values and practical matters in his mind. A convinced pro-lifer would say that the value of the child’s life outweighs all other considerations. Yet, when it comes to the voting booth, that premise is cast aside for other issues that are deemed either more pragmatic or equally weighty. He wouldn’t mark an “X” next to the name of a pro-life candidate with whom he disagreed with on all other policies.
The rebuttal goes: I don’t want to be a one-issue voter. There’s more to governing than making abortion illegal. Indeed, there is. Yet, there are all kinds of beliefs that automatically disqualify a politician from being considered for office, no matter how competent he is. For example: would you vote for a white supremacist? Why not? After all, there’s more to governing a country than respecting racial equality.
People exclude the possibility of voting for such a person because they consider racial equality more fundamental than most other values. And yet, many pro-lifers vote for those who think killing another human being can be morally sanctioned.
Then there are those who conclude: abortion is legal anyway. There’s nothing that can be done about it, so I might as well vote the way I want. My vote won’t make a difference.
Of course something can be done about unborn rights. The responsibility begins with pro-lifers.
There is more to voting than results. Voting is our civic duty to express ourselves in a democratic society. Political pundits and strategists care more about the saliency of public opinion – that is, the intensity with which they desire a given policy – than what they actually say they want. Most strategists know that there is a significant portion of the electorate that is pro-life, but that the saliency of the pro-life vote is very weak. Even if only half of Canada’s pro-lifers started to take unborn rights more seriously at election time, the strategists would have to pay attention.
Yet an even more important reason to vote pro-life is that voting is a form of approval. A pro-lifer may not agree with the pro-abort stance of the candidate he’s voting for, but his silence on the issue of the most basic of rights is a serious breach of personal integrity. It is usually difficult to find a candidate whose moral values correspond exactly with one’s own, but the criteria we should use to gauge their worthiness should begin with most fundamental values. How can a pro-lifer say that killing a baby is murder, yet vote for the very people who allow this to happen?
Failing to speak out against oppression of the unborn is not unlike the failure of bystanders to have spoken out during the numerous episodes of genocide that have taken place in the past century. And while most of these bystanders lived under totalitarian regimes and did not have the ability to oust their governments, either politically or militarily, Canadian pro-lifers cannot hide behind that defence. Just as oppressive regimes count on the silence of objectors to carry out their designs, pro-aborts bank on the sheer apathy of pro-lifers to suppress the abortion debate and sustain the abortion status quo. The fact that the collective votes of pro-lifers can make a difference on other issues does not release them from their obligation to stand up for the weakest members of our society. The only thing that will end the self-fulfilling prophecy that nothing can be done about abortion is the decision by pro-lifers to take their moral responsibilities seriously at the ballot box.
Then there are pro-lifers who call socialism “pro-life” and think that because they voted for the candidate who supports universal health care, they’ve done their duty. They stretch the meaning of the word “pro-life” to include everything from environmentalism to ending the arms race. In their minds, so much is “pro-life” that the word is reduced to meaninglessness.
The confusion between socialism and the right to life represents a fundamental misunderstanding about what the pro-life philosophy is about. The pro-life movement has as its primary goal the respect of the right to life from conception to natural death. It promotes the equality of all those whose right to life is threatened or unacknowledged: the unborn, the elderly, the handicapped and all other vulnerable people.
The right to life is the most fundamental right from which all other rights flow. All other issues are secondary to this one. The poor need to be helped, but their right to life is not jeopardized. No one is legally allowed to kill them. They are not helpless human beings without any means of solving their own problems. Unborn children, on the other hand, cannot speak for themselves. They need people to champion them, more so than any one else in society. The most fundamental right of the weakest people in society is not even acknowledged. That injustice is the greatest injustice, and takes precedence over all others. Yet the same liberals who wouldn’t vote for a racist would easily vote for a pro-abort. There is a severe moral discrepancy in this kind of thinking.
Probably the biggest reason why pro-lifers renege on their values at election time is because they do not see themselves in the unborn.
Imagine what it would be like to be in a small minority of people who had no rights whatsoever, and the state gave the majority the right to kill that minority at will, without means of self-defence or escape. And imagine that people didn’t care enough to cast a vote in favour of your right to life. Wouldn’t you want your rights upheld?