During and after every election Campaign Life Coalalition finds itself the subject of attack. The recent Ontario election was no exception, when our detractors included two Catholic priests. They wrote to complain about our tactics and one of them suggested that we were “abrasive and self-riteous” Well that’s not the stuff that swelled heads are made of and so we took a serious look at the complaints.
North Bay: An Elections Hot Spot
The riding of Nipissing, which takes in the town of North Bay, generated most of the complaints this election. The seat has been held by a Conservative, Mike Harris, who has never been identified by us as being pro-life. The Liberals nominated Mrs. Marthe Smith, a church going Catholic a member of North Bay Right to Life. So, it would seem clear that Campaign Life Coalition should have supported Mrs. Smith as the pro-life candidate in the riding. But we didn’t’. In fact CLC representatives in the riding went so far as to distribute copies of an anti-Peterson pamphlet which encouraged people to defeat their local Liberal candidate.
Who is Pro-Life
Evidently something strange was going on in North Bay. It is well worth looking at because what happened there has occurred, with variations, election after election, in different ridings.
Mrs. Smith was being promoted as a candidate by a number of pro-life people in the riding, including a Catholic priest. These supporters believed Marthe Smith to be pro-life. After all, she was a member of the local Right to Life association.
This brings us to the very heart of the question : “ who is a pro-life politician?” Virtually every leading pro-abortion politician in this country claims to be “ personally opposed” to abortion. How ever, Campaign Life Coalition holds that only those politicians who are willing to use their public office to win legal protection for unborn children can be classed as pro-life. That involves rejecting the policies of one’s party and one’s leader if a candidate is running for one of the three major parties.
Refused to sign the statement
Early in the election, Mrs. Smith was presented with the pro-life statement which all candidates in Ontario were being asked to endorse. When asked by North Bay pro-lifers to sign the statement, Mrs. Smith refused and wrote us that : “ I am unable to sign your Statement on Abortion.”
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the story everyone heard. One Catholic priest, who contacted us after the election, stated that Mrs. Smith was pro-life and that she did not sign the statement because it was never presented to her. We wonder who gave him that idea!
Instead of signing the statement, Mrs. Smith sent Campaign Life Coalition a letter setting out her views. In that letter she states, “there is justification for therapeutic abortion properly administered.”
This position is, of course, rejected by Mrs. Smith’s own Roman Catholic Church. Similarly, it is rejected by pro-life groups and doctors throughout the world. On the other hand, Mrs. Smith’s reasoning is the rationale for the present federal law which declares the killing of the unborn acceptable, if done in accredited hospitals.
Defended the Powell Report
Mrs. Smith also sent a letter of explanation to the Pro- Life Committee of the Pro Cathedral, a Catholic parish located in North Bay. In that letter, Mrs. Smith actually defended the Liberal government’s proposals to increase access to abortion in Ontario:
“ The Liberal government believes that a legal medical procedure must be made available to all those for whom it is appropriate…
“Easier accessibility to legally provided services does not mean more abortions. From my own pro-life views, I see this government policy working against the freestanding abortion clinics like the Morgentaler clinics.”
To Suggest that easier access to abortions does not increase abortions stretches credibility beyond the breaking point. Clearly, Mrs .Smith accepted the Liberal party “line” on abortion. This line goes all the way back to 1969 when the federal Liberals “legalized” the killing of the unborn on the grounds that it would not increase abortions but simply remove them from dangerous back alleys and into hospitals. Mrs. Smith did nothing to distance herself, much less reject, the Ontario government’s pro-abortion record. She assured members of the church that
“It is my intention to see that our views are included in caucus and in the Legislature.” That was not very reassuring, however, when her earlier remarks show that she accepted all the justifications put forward by the party leadership.”
From experience, Campaign Life Coalition knows that there are many well-intentioned people like Mrs. Smith who, nevertheless, have adopted a perspective which is that of the pro-abortionists. It is usually covered up in the saying “ I am personally against abortion but I can’t impose my private morality on others.” In her letter to the parish, Mrs. Smith writes: “ One also hesitates to impose all of one’s religious beliefs on constituents of different faiths courting the risk of those people’s own religious values one day being imposed on us.” What is wrong with this view? Protection for unborn children is, of course, not the imposition of private religious devotions or customs- it is the recognition of a fundamental human right.
Targeting the Liberal
Campaign Life Coalition was not the only group to be concerned about the abortion views of the three major party candidates. The lack of a pro life candidate in Nipissing riding prompted the Family Coalition Party to run a candidate, Brendan Purtell. During the campaign, FCP workers were distressed to find that a substantial number of pro-life people intended to vote Liberal.
In response, Campaign Life Coalition began distributing a pamphlet which encouraged voters to “Defeat your Liberal Party Candidate.” The pamphlet set out the pro-abortion record of the Peterson government including its refusal to close the illegal abortuaries and its policy of widening abortion access. The appearance of this literature caused a former President of the North Bay Right to Life to criticize us in the press. She criticized us on basis that our pamphlet made no mention of the NDP’s position on abortion. In fact, the pamphlet stated explicitly that the NDP supports abortion on demand and highlighted this fact by devoting the back panel to the rhetorical question “who’s the Premier, David Peterson or Bob Rae?”
Others as bad
In the election, Campaign Life Coalition maintained an even hand. As Unpopular as it was to make us, we knew we had an obligation to tell voters that a popular candidate was not to be pro-life. Smith was never labelled as being pro abortion. We didn’t smear or attack anyone’s character. What we did do was to inform pro-life voters that a vote for Smith was a vote for the pro abortion policies of David Peterson.
In every election, well meaning voters think that if a candidate calls himself or herself “pro-life” then the candidate is indeed pro-life. Such is simply not true. Parliament and the Legislatures are filled with politicians who were once sincerely pro-life. But these same politicians have been subjected to tremendous pressures from the pro- abortion forces who control each of the three major parties. Mrs. Smith is just the most recent example of a personally pro-life individual who has allowed herself to be manipulated by political powers. At election time we cannot engage in wishful thinking; if a major party candidate accepts his or her party’s position on abortion. That candidate is not pro-life.