Life issues

By 
  • September 12, 2008

{mosimage}Even before this federal election campaign started, those who believe in the sanctity of human life were bound to be disappointed. There is no political party that officially supports the pro-life position and few political leaders that even want to talk about it.

The governing Conservative Party ensured there would be no significant debate on abortion, for instance, during this campaign. In late August, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson withdrew his government’s support for a private member’s bill, the Unborn Victims of Crime Bill C-484. In doing so, Nicholson caved in to those who claimed — without justification — that the bill would lead to legislation to restrict abortion.

The Conservatives pulled this move after Liberal Leader Stephane Dion challenged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to tell Canadians where he stood on abortion. The prime minister demurred. At least we know where Dion stands, even if it is against unborn children. Meanwhile, the New Democrats are officially hostile to human life in the womb.

Euthanasia is not a campaign issue for any major party, though there have been repeated attempts by individual MPs to legalize both euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide.

So we cannot look to the parties to allow a serious debate on life issues. If they arise at all, they will become political fodder for the left-of-centre parties which will try to paint the Conservatives as having a “secret agenda” to usher in an era of back-room abortions and sexual repression. Truth will be the first victim in the political war.

Such a likelihood, however, does not relieve Catholics and other pro-life Canadians of the responsibility to put these issues on the public agenda. Their vital importance to the common good insist on it. Moreover, despite the parties’ attempts to distort the issues, there are a significant number of pro-life politicians and they are not all in the Conservative Party.

Voters hold a valuable lever in their hands — their vote. Before handing it over to any individual politician, they should insist on knowing where that person stands on the gamut of life issues — from conception to natural death. Politicians with integrity will be frank; others need to be pushed off their fences.

Voters should also consider the information gathered by political lobbies such as the Campaign Life Coalition, which do in-depth surveys of the positions of individual candidates across the country. Such information, when gleaned from a variety of perspectives, is valuable in discerning how to perform what the Catholic Church calls a “civic duty.”

That final decision will, of course, arise from a careful balancing of factors, of which life issues comprise a vitally important one. As the Canadian bishops said in their Election 2004 statement, Responsibility and Discernment, in the messy world of politics, each Catholic “must exercise political discernment and prudential judgment.” Along with their vocal chords. Let the politicians know where you stand.

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