The failure of Roseanne Skoke to win the Liberal party nomination in Picton-Antigonish-Guysborough is a setback not only for her Nova Scotia supporters, but for pro-life people across the country. Since being elected in 1993, Skoke has been one of the most vocal defenders of unborn children on the federal scene. Unlike many of her colleagues on Parliament Hill, Skoke refused to take the path of least resistance, preferring instead to stand up in defense of life and family.

Skoke’s stand drew sharp and immediate criticism from opponents, fellow Liberals and most commentators in the mainstream media. Words such as “bigot” and “intolerant” were trotted out in abundance. One of the more condescending phrases referred to Skoke as Canada’s “petite, blonde homophobe.”

The liberal-feminist-homosexual coalition was especially vicious in its unrelenting attack on Skoke. To these elements, Skoke was a close-minded reactionary whose vision of society had no place for persons of different sexual orientation or for those whose view of marriage and family differed from the norm. It was the typical response to any public official who is guided by principle and who refuses to submit to the pressures of moral relativism.

Skoke’s defeat at the hands of team player Francis LeBlanc is being hailed as a victory for the federal Liberals’ tolerance, openness and inclusion. But as pro-life people would point out, openness, tolerance and inclusion have their limits. Anyone opposing the official line on such issues as abortion and special rights for homosexual groups is to be painted an extremist, and eventually driven out of the party.

But despite her treatment at the hands of her own party, there is another element to Skoke’s failure to win the nomination that is even more troubling. Skoke relied on committed pro-life, church-going people for a large measure of her support. While many of these came forward during the campaign, it was not enough to overcome the hardball tactics employed by the Liberal establishment. Other factors – including bad weather which kept some Skoke supporters away, the busing in of anti-Skoke “temporary Liberals”, and a last-minute move to keep children out of the meeting hall (thus denying Skoke the support of families with young children) – also contributed to Skoke’s defeat.

If there is something to be learned from Skoke’s ordeal, it is that pro-lifers will have to work even harder to support politicians courageous enough to show their right to life stand. Prayer and moral support have their place, but if future pro-life leaders are to have any success, it must be based in large measure on the active support of the committed.

Skoke meanwhile is considering a run at the leadership of the Nova Scotia Liberal party. Whatever her plans, her absence will be keenly felt as pro-life supporters in Canada await the next federal election.