U.S. Congressman brings conviction and inspiration to the annual National Pro-Life Conference in London
It seems almost fitting that Chris Smith, possessor of the commonest of surnames, would hold some of the rarest political convictions in North America.
But this U.S. Congressman breaks the mold of your typical Washington politico. He is a Republican in the Democrat stronghold of New Jersey; a young politician with traditional views of the family; a powerful player in the foreign-relations scene who still finds time for his wife and four children; a Catholic politician who does not sell out his faith.
This June, Chris Smith came to the National Pro-Life Conference in London, Ontario with more than a recycled speech filled with hackneyed sentiments.
He came with enthusiasm and inspiration and, oddest of all, what seemed like a genuine desire to work with pro-lifers to block the United States’ and the United Nations’ abortion-promoting initiatives at home and abroad. He also brought a good deal of optimism.
“The pendulum is swinging back in favour of the family,” he claimed, noting the overwhelming victory of pro-family Republicans in the U.S. elections, last November.
“Soon we’ll have a majority and, together with a pro-life president, we will be able to set that pendulum in motion,” he proclaimed to loud cheers at the London conference.
Smith, a youthful 42-year-old politician from Rathway, New Jersey, is no latecomer to the movement. Before entering politics he chaired his local pro-life group and took part in countless protests.
After receiving a degree in business and working as a sporting goods executive, he ran for the Republican Party in 1980. He was not given a chance of winning but surprised pundits by upsetting Democratic incumbent Frank Thompson.
Critics wrote him off as a one-shot wonder who capitalized on anti-incumbent sentiment but Smith has silenced them by being re-elected five times. Not once in those five years has he ever hidden his pro-life sentiments. “As a politician, you don’t have to be ashamed of them (pro-life beliefs) or hide them. It is not necessarily a losing issue.”
In Congress, Smith counts his greatest struggle and triumph as the stretch when he and Henry Hyde were desperately trying to save the Hyde Amendment, an amendment named after Hyde, banning U.S. government funding of population control programs which promotes abortion.
“At one time it looked like the whole thing was lost. When, at the last possible minute we were able to put together enough votes to save it, there were genuine tears of joy in Henry’s eyes. I don’t think he had slept in three days,” he recounted.
He has also worked hard to block the abortion pill RU-486 from gaining a foothold in the U.S., rankling the radical feminist lobby groups.
As Chairman of the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Foreign Affairs, Smith has fought to curtail the Clinton administration’s ongoing fixation with population control programs, especially in China. He has worked hard to block administration support for the International Planned Parenthood Federation and was overjoyed to hear that the Canadian government had cut its block funding to the IPPF.
Working closely with pro-life groups, Third World countries and the Holy See, Smith was able to play a significant role in muting the abortion sentiment of the final document emanating from the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.
He expects the UN’s International Conference on Women set for this September in Beijing to be another battleground. After his luncheon address at the conference, Smith was able to meet with key members of the Canadian pro-life delegation attending Beijing. He also met with several Canadian politicians including Liberal MPs Tom Wappel, Roseanne Skoke, Dan McTeague, and Reform MP Sharon Hayes.
In the post conference interviews an obviously weary Smith patiently answered questions about the practicality of fighting such a nebulous and convoluted body as the United Nations.
Recent failures in Bosnia, Rwanda and Somalia may have been disastrous to the UN’s peacekeeping reputation but Smith maintains that the UN’s social agenda has strong financial backing from various major powers and is extremely well organized.
“The abortions struggle was gone global and we must fight it as such,” he said.
He feels that by writing politicians and sending delegates to the UN conferences, a difference can be made. Combining these efforts with the strong work already being done at the local level will give the pendulum the needed push to start its swing.
When asked when we could start experiencing the benefits of the swing will be felt Smith did not miss a beat.
“2004, at the very latest,” he said, but would not elaborate why.