The U.S. pro-life movement must decide what to do with Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition RALPH REED: A WASHINGTON MOVER AND SHAKER.

On the first weekend of September, 4,000 people attended a convention which could well define the future of the American people.

Those present at the Christian Coalition’s “Road to Victory” Convention say it could be the necessary tonic to snap the pro-life movement out of its recent doldrums and set it on the path to success.  Others remain skeptical, noting that the Coalition has already made unnecessary concessions in terms of protecting the pre-born.

Thirty-Six-year-old Ralph Reed is the force behind the Christian Coalition.  Many have credited him with steering the old moral majority away from its legacy of Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell and giving it a  fresh 90s appeal.  He is attempting to tether two of the most dynamic but unruly6 forces on the political landscape—moral and fiscal conservatism—into a unified front.

The convention handbook describes that Coalition as a “vanguard of a growing new alliance of evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Jews, African Americans and Hispanics who are working hard for common-sense legislation that will strengthen the family.”

The group’s professed mandate is to bring about major political, economic and social changes which will strengthen the family in society.  Reed feels his highly motivated, highly organized workers can exert enough political force on the government to balance the budget, institute tax breaks, for families, eliminate funding to special interest groups and most importantly, pass laws which protract the pre-born.

A virtual who’s who of the Republican party were present to show convention-goers that they are the true “family values” candidates.  Whether or not they made a good case for themselves is of little importance—the fact that Bob Dole, Phil Gramm, Newt Gingrinch and Bob  Dorman showed up reveals just how important it is for potential presidents to work with a newly unified Christian Right.

The number one issue for the convention was abortion.  Speaker after speaker objected strongly to abortion on demand and shared their vision of eventually eliminating it.  It was a true pro-life love-in, a Republican/pro-life group hug.

However, pro-lifers have learned to be suspicious of overly-friendly politicians bearing promises of legislative change.  Canadian pro-lifers know well the experience of spending time and money to elect a politician, only to be shunned when the candidate goes to Ottawa.

The question, then, before Coalition convention goers was whether to expect more of the same from the Christian Coalition and its stable of politicians.  Is Ralph Reed a concerned citizen or a Republican still trying to tap the Christian vote?

Gary Bauer, president of the Washington Family Research Council, who has a working relationship with Reed, voiced these concerns.

“I’m not afraid that we (Christian Coalition) will take over the Republican Party.  I’m afraid the Republican Party or some other party down the road may take us over,” Bauer said at the convention.

He cautioned members not to fall into the trap “of thinking that we are Republicans first and men and women of faith second,” or to “fall to the temptation of thinking that a balanced budget is as important as unborn children.”

Another main cause for concern is the Coalition’s approach toward ending abortion.  In the Christian Coalition’s guidebook. “Contract with the American Family, “ the group suggests banning only third trimester abortions, which make up only a small percentage of the overall total.

Behind this approach lurks the division within U.S. pro-life ranks—those who favour an incremental approach toward ending abortion and those who will not allow any exceptions.  In Canada, both major pro-life groups, Alliance for Life and Campaign Life Coalition, hold that the step-by step approach of removing abortion on demand is fraught with disaster.

Any time a pro-life group avows that it might be all right to allow some abortions, they dilute the true message that all abortions are wrong.

“The legislative message (from pro-life groups) must insist that abortion kills a living person: therefore abortion should be illegal,” contends Judy Brown, president of the American Life League.

“All pre-born babies from fertilization on are persons, and all persons have the right to life,” says Brown and any legislation which makes an exception to this is therefore flawed.  The message cannot be diluted. The message cannot be diluted.

This controversy will continually crop up if the Coalition’s Washington influence strengthens.  However, if two elements remain in place, there is no reason why Reed and pro-lifers, cannot co-exist.

  1. The Christian Coalition  never loses sight of its stated goal—to eliminate all abortions.
  2. Pro-life groups look on the Christian Coalition not as a pro-life group in itself but as a political lobbying force which has, among others things, a pro-life agenda.

It would stand to reason that pro-life groups can work with the Coalition on the pro-life issue just as Americans for Tax Reform can work with the Coalition for taxation changes.  As long as the Coalition is using its political influence and leverage in Washington to push pro-life legislation, then groups may work with them.

The name of the game in Washington the Ottawa circles is political influence.  Because of the ideological purity of their message, the pro-life movement has never really carried enough clout to gain entrance into these circles but has, instead, found success at the grass roots level.

Now Reed and his Coalition have been allowed into this high stakes game.  They can approach the table, ready to play a strong hand.  It is up to pro-life groups to work with Reed to ensure h

e doesn’t fold when it comes time to play the pro-life card.

If Reed Folds, the pro-life movement loses—again.  If he holds true, the losing streak is finally over and the momentum could prove unstoppable.  One fact is certain—without the Reed the pro-life movement is not even at the table.  Now, they must decide whether they are going to back Reed as their player.

The Christian Coalition will continue with or without the pro-life movement.  It might therefore be necessary for major U.S. pro-life groups to stay involved, if only to keep Reed working toward the final goal.