I talked to a Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament the other day who found it passing strange, if not downright incredible, that during the 1984 election he was met at doors across his riding with enthusiasm and encouragement for his pro-life stand, yet was turned away with the admonition “we’ve always voted NDP, and will continue to do so. This was riding where pro-life signs NDP signs co-habited on front lawns – an interesting contradiction, to say the least. And these same people, once the election was over and our man elected in spite of their overt lack of support, had the gall to meet with him to reiterate their pro-life concerns and press him to do more for the cause. He could, perhaps, be forgiven for telling them to go jump in the lake (which, incidentally, he did not).
I know I could find similar examples throughout the country where only the political affiliations would change: pro-life Liberals shunned by PC voters: pro-life independents shunned by almost everyone. And it gets worse. In recent elections, there have been examples of pro-life advocates working actively for the election of openly pro-abortion candidates, because, of course, they have always worked for the Liberal (PC, NDP0 party. I, for one, believe that we must address this problem openly in the two years remaining until the next federal election.
My husband admits that in the last federal election he didn’t vote Liberal for the first time in his life. In fact he didn’t vote for anyone at all, but spoiled his ballot by writing “no pro-life candidate” across it. This was not an action taken lightly, but after much soul-searching and due consideration of all the candidates. But my husband has an advantage that the average pro-lifer doesn’t have: he lives with me and gets his pro-life education through osmosis, listening to my constant litany of successes, failures and initiatives within the movement. Discounting the husbands, wives and children of those of us involved in pro-life work on a regular basis, we are left with several hundred thousand grass-roots pro-lifers who need to be given a message: VOTE PRO-LIFE.
How do we convince the average pro-lifer that voting pro-life is not the act of a fanatic? How do we avoid the negative image associates with targeting pro-abortion candidates for defeat and turn this into a positive, progressive and enlightened action? How do we motivate pro-lifers to change life-long voting patterns for the sake of the unborn child? We must accomplish all of this, and soon.
Political pro-life organizations serve an important function in qualifying candidates during an election campaign and clarifying pro-life or pro-abortion positions. While it is clear that new mechanisms must be found in order to properly classify today’s often deceitful candidates, the exercise itself is essential. However, in order to be effective, the candidate information gathered must be used by a large body of committed voters who are willing to either cross party lines to vote for a pro-life candidate, or spoil or refuse ballots to avoid voting for a candidate who is “pro-choice.” We must educate and motivate the average pro-lifer to do just that.
It is said that there are four distinct stages or levels of involvement in pro-life development. They are:
- Conversion to the pro-life position;
- Commitment to the pro-life philosophy and a willingness to support the movement in whatever way the individual is able;
- Politicization of pro-lifers to carry their convictions to the ballot box; and
- Activism in taking on a more visible role and greater responsibility within the movement.
I believe that the political pro-life organizations should focus on the third stage, politicization, in the time we have left before the next election. I also believe that in the past this stage has been taken for granted as an all-too-obvious extension of pro-life commitment. That it is not as is now apparent, and we must actively continue the education process to politicize all pro-lifers.
Back to the MP I spoke with the other day. By now he has probably received bushels of mail from pro-life constituents asking that he support legal protection of the unborn child by voting in favour of Gus Mitges’ motion, M-37. Now just exactly why should he pay any attention to them? Because they won’t re-elect him? They didn’t help elect him in the first place and he knows it! Luckily this particular MP is so strongly pro-life that he will vote in favour of M-37 no matter what his constituents say.