By Caroline Bazinet ’13
When I cast my ballot this November, I will vote to put the candidate who is most committed to protecting the right to life in office. I am aware that this is one of several critical issues to consider, and I have considered those other issues. As anyone who has selected a candidate for a job can attest, falling short in a single, but critical, part of the application process might disqualify an otherwise-stellar candidate from a position. I’ve concluded that taking the right to life seriously is an essential prerequisite to serving others in office, and that someone who hasn’t fulfilled this prerequisite is incompetent for the job. While many other informed voters make this decision about other issues, either occasionally or consistently, the right to life is different from and affects all of these other issues. This is why it is always a prerequisite for competence in political office.
Even an issue that is not generally considered to be one of the most important could prove the pivotal issue of a given election cycle if one candidate is on a particular extreme. For example, I wouldn’t usually decide to vote or not vote for a candidate based on a history of integrity in personal matters, but I decided a long time ago not to vote for Newt Gingrich in the Republican primaries. Though he seems to have apologized and changed his ways, his personal history is so poor that it would make him unable to defeat President Obama. This one issue was the deal-breaker for Gingrich on my ballot.
In fact, many voters this election cycle are voting on one issue. Some primary voters refused to back Gingrich for the same reason I did, and others have decided to make their selection based on “electability.” Many Republicans have decided to vote on the one issue of ousting Barack Obama because they believe that any other candidate will do a better job.
So I’m not the only one-issue voter, especially not this election cycle. These other informed voters know that electability is not the only important issue to consider, but have reasonably decided that it trumps all of the others. And if ousting a supposed terrible president justifies becoming a one-issue voter, why shouldn’t ending abortion and euthanasia?
This election’s focus has largely been about the economy, and I agree that the economy is in grave danger. But as fundamental as the right to property is, the right to life is more fundamental, and in more grave danger. According to a February 2012 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment remains high at 8-9%, but a 2011 report by the Guttmacher Institute (“Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States”) estimated that more than 20% of would-be Americans don’t even exist at all because of abortion. Not only does being aborted have a much bigger effect on one’s life than losing one’s job, abortion directly affects more Americans. (For a more in-depth consideration of the proportion argument, please consider Jimmy Akin’s September 2004 article “What Ratzinger Said.”) It amazes me that this isn’t the biggest priority!
Assuming, as many modern biologists do, that life begins at conception, a candidate that will not do whatever he can do to defend life is not committed to ending the slaughter of one in five Americans every year. To put this in perspective: everyone reading this article has survived a double decimation of the population.
It would seem perfectly reasonable to refuse to vote for an otherwise “perfect” candidate who was determined to kill an entire ethnic minority. Isn’t it then also perfectly reasonable to refuse to vote for a candidate who has no qualms about allowing a minority—that of human beings at a certain developmental stage—to undergo two rounds of decimation by the stronger majority?
In fact, someone who is pro-life and yet does not vote in such a way as to end such slaughter has decided that the right to life for all citizens really isn’t as important as the right to bear arms or a booming economy (to me, both are very important, just not as important).
Though on the one hand, it’s surprising that issues of life aren’t emphasized more, on the other hand, explanations render the under-emphasis on defending life not so amazing. I myself am guilty of under-acknowledging the problems that are not a part of my daily life. We can see the unemployed on the street, we can see the numbers published in the newspapers, and we probably know people who have been devastated by unemployment. The massacres of the unborn and the euthanized don’t hit us in the face because we don’t see them on the street or hear about current abortion rates from the media. And we certainly don’t personally know any unborn aborted children. The unemployed can cry for help and they can vote. The unborn and the dying are too weak to speak up for themselves and too weak to vote.
This is why right to life is consistently an essential prerequisite to serving others effectively. Indeed, a candidate’s respect for the life of the powerless, voiceless, and vote-less is a good indicator of his respect for all other citizens. An elected official’s policies regarding the weakest citizens with the lowest “utility” value is a good indication of his respect for and policies regarding the rest of us who have no political influence. In this way, voting on life issues alone is not akin to voting on solar energy or banning trans fats or most other issues alone.
Many Americans believe the economy is our nation’s biggest problem right now. It’s important to protect the economic safety of all citizens, but the healthy American adult, rich or poor, is very powerful compared to the American embryo. He exerts his power when he speaks, when he makes purchases, when he votes, and when he influences others to do the same.
Unions’ political influence has shown that millionaires are not the only ones with enormous power. Therefore, an official who wants to assure fair conditions for a coalition of organized workers but doesn’t respect right to life doesn’t respect the powerless.
This is evident if one asks what rights the government would protect of the same American adult if he were bed-ridden, too ill to work, make purchases or vote, and had little chance of recovering these capabilities. If power matters, he has even less power than the embryo because at least the embryo, if development proceeds as expected, will become an American adult who can speak, work, and make political and economic decisions.
The answer is that once this adult becomes powerless, he has no rights—the government permits his family to remove him from life support at any time. In a nation that does not respect the right to life, my rights are only contingent on my power.
Therefore, when I cast my vote for life, I do not only cast my vote for the 20% of Americans who are voiceless and have been deprived of their right to life. I also cast my vote to protect the same rights to the other 80% whose inalienable rights are in jeopardy because of the fate of their fellow Americans. I am a woman, and I have the right to choose, the right to choose to defend fundamental rights for all, not just for those who have the voice to demand them.