By David Alton
The contrast between the USA and the UK in how they deal with pro-life questions could not be greater. In America the position of individual candidates on issues such as abortion, embryo experimentation, human cloning and euthanasia determines whether they get elected. The position of candidates becomes well known and the electorate are a lot more likely in the USA to use their vote on the basis of where a candidate stands than we are here.
The Pro-Life Infonet (www.prolifeinfo.org) has produced some fascinating material showing the impact which pro-life issues had during the recent mid-term elections. In eight of the top ten contests for the American Senate the seats went to pro-life candidates, and other pro-life incumbents kept their seats as well. Two-thirds of the newly elected members of the House of Representatives are also pro-life.
In the UK an organisation called EMILY’s List (Early Money Is Like Yeast) provides money to pro-abortion Labour women to help them secure seats as MPs. This organisation came from the States. Two weeks ago in America they lost 17 of the 22 candidates they sponsored.
An American news agency, Fox News, also conducted a series of exit-polls that confirmed how very significant numbers of voters were voting according to their beliefs on pro-life questions. Catholics, in swing states like Florida, where 26% of the voters are Catholic, and form the highest single denomination voting, were able to determine the eventual outcome.
Many other key states in the mid-term election saw huge voter turnout from Catholics, and now these states have solid pro-life representatives.
In the week before the election powerful interventions were made by Priests for Life who told voters that it was not good enough to simply vote for a Catholic candidate, for instance, if they were in favour of abortion. They said that we should never vote according to a party label alone.
Bishop Blaise Cupich of Rapid City, South Dakota, wrote a letter which was read at every church in his diocese where he made it clear that supporting any “pro-choice” candidate, was out of the question. This is what he said:
“Catholic people are not single issue voters,” he said. “We do care about the sick and the elderly, the homeless, the poor, education, security and world peace. But if the senator, as the leader of his party, wants to make abortion the single issue in this year’s election, then we are ready to let him and those who support him know this week and in the months and years to come that we voters also had abortion on our minds when we went to the polls — and that the overwhelming majority of those voters were pro-life.”
By putting these questions centre stage it has undoubtedly deeply affected voting patterns. Fourteen percent of Minnesota voters said abortion was their top concern, the third-highest single issue named. Nine percent of the voters in Georgia felt the same way. Of these voters, the vast majority voted for pro-life candidates – candidates who secured substantial majorities.
Hawaii and Nevada also had crucial wins for pro-lifers. Hawaii’s governor was trying to enact a law that would make them the second state to legalize assisted suicide. Voters defeated him and chose his challenger, Laura Lingle, who promised to veto any such bill in the future.
In Missouri, 17 percent of voters said abortion was their number one concern, second only to the economy (21 percent). Of those 17 percent, 80 percent voted for pro-life candidate Jim Talent over incumbent pro-choice Senator Jean Carnahan. The legislative director of National Right to Life in the USA commented, “It would certainly be fair to say Senator Carnahan was defeated on the pro-life issue.”
So what is the moral of the story for us in the UK? The answer is perhaps contained in a reply given to me a few days ago in Parliament. Official statistics indicate that in the past decade 925,747 embryos have been created in the course of IVF treatment in Britain since 1991, of whom only 423,153 [46%] were transferred into a woman for implantation. Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, a government health minister, also told me that 225,627 embryos had been stored for the parents’ later use, 448 were stored for the use of someone other than the parents, 53,497 were donated for [destructive] research, and 294,584 remained unused [and were discarded]. The so-called wastage rate in IVF is even higher than the government admits because many embryos die very soon after fertilisation while still in the petri dish. Only about 4% of IVF embryos survive until birth, so more than 1,200,000 embryos have died in the course of IVF procedures alone. Add to these one million human embryos the six million abortions that have taken place in the past 35 years and you will see why we need to learn from the American experience and prioritise the degradation and wanton destruction of human life as a political issue in the way that the Americans have managed to do.