It is a very good time to think seriously about pro-life voting in Canada. Recent pro-life victories in the U.S. demonstrate the power of the democratic vote in pro-life matters. However, abortion and many related pro-life issues are not even on the political radar in Canada. Pro-lifers have a profound duty to vote for candidates who will protect the unborn, the sick, the disabled and the elderly. The sad reality is that until politicians feel the influence of the pro-life vote, the value of human life will remain eroded.

There are several reasons pro-lifers give for voting for a candidate who approves of abortion. These reasons must be examined critically.

The pro-abortion candidate has many other good policies.

Pro-lifers have a clear litmus test for candidates to political office. If a candidate is prepared to say that unborn babies should have no rights, the door is left wide open for other groups of people to be marginalized or dismissed. Perhaps people on welfare can also be devalued. Perhaps, in a time of shrinking budgets, life-changing medical care is offered to a 12-year-old, but not to an 82-year-old. The problem with a pro-abortion candidate is the voter has no control over which groups of people would be considered important and which groups expendable. Depending on one’s economic status, country of origin, age or faith, any individual voter is vulnerable at the hands of a pro-abortion representative of government. Seen in this light, having an unequivocal stand on the value of human life is the one issue which stands before all others.

Is a candidate who could save the healthcare system, but supports discrimination against black people, worth voting for? Would a candidate with the best platform on education be acceptable if that candidate believes women should not own property? These examples are extreme, but have precedent. Politicians in the past have devalued groups of people on the basis of colour or gender. These examples are no more preposterous than voting for a candidate whose position on welfare and labour issues is excellent but permits the killing of unborn babies. In this same category are pro-abortion candidates who profess abortion is wrong but would do nothing to prevent it. If a candidate’s position is that pro-life issues can be ignored or given mere lip service because he or she will receive the votes of pro-lifers anyway, that vote needs to be placed elsewhere.

The pro-life candidate has a number of poor policies.

Most pro-life candidates, by virtue of their strong belief in the value of human life, take their responsibility on policy issues seriously. Pro-life candidates should be challenged on all issues so they can demonstrate the due diligence and care people expect from moral government. Even so, a pro-life candidate can have positions which another pro-life voter completely opposes or even abhors. However, pro-life voters need to consider: is there any policy more offensive than the government-sanctioned killing of babies at the taxpayer’s expense?

There is no pro-life candidate.

The worst situation in an election is to not even have a pro-life candidate to vote for. Here is where pro-lifers need to demonstrate vigilance as active members of political parties, particularly in the nomination process.

When the writ is dropped and no pro-life candidate exists, there is a moral imperative to run for public office. Even a pro-life candidate running as an independent is better than no pro-life candidate at all. Among an array of pro-abortion candidates, the issues of importance to pro-lifers will have no traction no matter who wins.

The Christian Heritage Party (federally) and the Family Coalition Party (in Ontario) are examples of parties that can support a pro-life candidate, particularly when other parties fail to do so. The fact that the unborn can’t win any rights without a true pro-life candidate is axiomatic.

Following a traditional party allegiance.

Over time, many people develop a commitment to one particular party. The Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus demonstrates how pro-life issues cross political boundaries. Through the PPLC, Liberals, Tories and Alliance parliamentarians can show solidarity on the pro-life issue. Pro-life voters need to show the same unity of purpose as the members of the PPLC do. Members of the PPLC are sometimes duty bound to vote against their own party because of the importance of pro-life issues. Pro-life voters need to demonstrate no less of a commitment than these courageous members of Parliament, even if it means voting against a traditional party of choice.

I do not wish to be a one-issue voter.

In the fall of 2001, I ran in the provincial by-election of Beaches-East York as the only pro-life candidate. My campaign distributed about 10,000 leaflets, I participated in debates and knocked on hundreds of doors. I did radio, television and newspaper interviews outlining a full campaign platform in addition to my pro-life position. At least 500 families were contacted by Campaign Life Coalition about my candidacy in an effort to mobilize a pro-life presence at the polls.

On the campaign trail, I encountered people who refused to vote for me on the sole basis that I was pro-life. My positions on healthcare, education, the environment, labour relations, welfare, the disabled, the rights of the family, water quality, democratic reform and energy policy were completely inconsequential to these voters, due to the fact that I stood opposed to unfettered abortion rights.

In the same by-election, the Green Party candidate received over 700 votes on a platform of population control through abortion, while my campaign garnered little more than 200 votes. The message to the other political parties and the media was that the majority of pro-lifers don’t vote pro-life, so they can be ignored.

On a provincial scale, the failure of the pro-life vote to materialize means politicians can safely avoid the abortion issue, and even prosper by promoting abortion as a responsible policy choice, as the Green party has done. Pro-lifers may not wish to be one-issue voters, but that means abortion will be one issue left off of campaign platforms.

The pro-life candidate won’t win, so a vote will do more good with another candidate.

Voting power doesn’t require the pro-life candidate to win. It can be enough to make another candidate lose. In a subsequent election bid, the (sensible) party which loses a seat by 3,000 votes because pro-lifers voted for the pro-life candidate will want those pro-life votes back. Pro-lifers need to assess the implications of their vote on an election four or five years later.

Many people are unaware that after the Family Coalition Party of Ontario made substantial gains in its first election run, Tom Long of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario sought an alliance. Due to moral differences on an issue like abortion, the FCP refused to co-operate with the Tories. As votes for the pro-life FCP have declined in recent years, the Tories no longer call. The initial lesson is that the FCP originally didn’t have to win a seat in the legislature to have an impact. The FCP only needed to gain enough votes to cause a major party like the Tories to be concerned.

It must be acknowledged that pro-life voting can have a huge and far reaching impact even when the candidate does not win. Simply by voting pro-life in the next election will not guarantee immediate change.

In fact, the successes that pro-lifers have achieved in the U.S. have been the result of many years of hard and thankless work. All of that work culminating in pro-life citizens voting for pro-life candidates has led to the boundless opportunities for creating an improved culture of life in America. The unborn in Canada deserve no less.