WASHINGTON (BP)–Having a pro-life identification proved beneficial for congressional candidates in the recent election. Now, pro-lifers hope that development will manifest itself in more protection for the unborn.
Exit and post-election polls showed that pro-life candidates held an advantage with voters to whom abortion was an important issue.
Of the 41 percent of voters in nine states who said the abortion issue affected their decisions, 61 percent said they voted for pro-life candidates in general and 31 percent for pro-choice candidates, according to a Zogby International poll Nov. 5-10. In terms of the total electorate, the result showed a 12 percent advantage for pro-life candidates.
In the same nine states, pro-life candidates for the U.S. Senate received 55 percent of the vote from people who said abortion influenced their decision, while pro-choice candidates garnered 39 percent from such voters, Zogby reported. The breakdown for the whole electorate meant pro-life candidates had a 7 percent advantage.
“That differential will win most contested races, and it did in this election,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “The first Tuesday of November was a day of tremendous victory for the legions of people across the nation who are pro-life. In virtually every contested race where abortion was a key issue, the pro-life candidate won.”
Exit polling by Fox News in specific races showed a similar pattern among voters who said abortion was the most significant issue in their decision:
— In Georgia, Republican challenger Saxby Chambliss, considered a pro-lifer, received 73 percent of the vote from people who described abortion as the most important issue, while pro-choice Democratic Sen. Max Cleland had 22 percent. This gave Chambliss a 5 percent advantage in the total electorate. Nine percent of Georgia voters polled said abortion mattered the most as an issue in the race.
— In Minnesota, Republican Norm Coleman, classified as a pro-lifer, garnered 81 percent of the vote from those who said abortion was the most important issue, while Democratic abortion-rights advocate Walter Mondale received 17 percent. This provided Coleman with a 9 percent advantage among the overall electorate. The poll showed 14 percent of Minnesota voters said abortion was the issue that mattered most.
— In Missouri, pro-life Republican challenger Jim Talent gained 80 percent from voters who said abortion was the top issue, while 19 percent chose pro-choice Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan. The pro-life increment was 10 percent in overall voting. Seventeen percent of Missouri voters said abortion was the most important issue.
The National Right to Life Committee, which released the poll results in a news conference, credited the results to the abortion advocacy of the Senate Democratic leadership and hard work at the grassroots. Before the election, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota sent out a fundraising letter for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.
“Given the outcome of the election, one must assume that a good number of registered Democrats were repelled by the party leadership’s radical pro-abortion stand,” NRLC President Wanda Franz said in a written statement. “The lesson is clear: In close elections, pro-life candidates win when the pro-life voters are mobilized by effective grassroots organization.”
Eight of the 10 new senators are pro-life, according to NRLC. Some of those, however, are more committed to the pro-life cause than others. In the House of Representatives, 34 of the 52 new members are “solidly pro-life,” NRLC reported. Of those, 31 are Republicans and three are Democrats.
Will this increase in pro-life members of Congress result in commensurate laws, especially in the year in which the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion is observed?
Pro-life advocates are optimistic.
The election means “we will have a significantly more pro-life Senate and pro-life House in the next Congress, which, when combined with a pro-life White House, is good news for the unborn,” the ERLC’s Land said.
Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said in a written release, “We urge the new Congress to act in accord with the pro-life convictions of the American people. Of immediate importance, we look forward to quick action by the new Congress to pass a real ban on partial-birth abortion and human cloning, two pro-life priorities that the president has promised to sign into law.”
Bills banning partial-birth abortion and both reproductive and research cloning passed the House and were endorsed by President Bush in the last session of Congress, but the Senate failed to act on either.
With the Republicans in the majority, the new leadership is committed to the partial-birth abortion ban at least. According to news reports, Sen. Trent Lott, R.-Miss, who will be the majority leader beginning in January, said shortly after the election, “We will move the partial-birth abortion bill through [the Senate]. I will call it up, we will pass it, and the president will sign it. I’m making that commitment — you can write it down.”
Pro-life leaders recognize, however, that abortion rights advocates in the Senate will be prepared to use parliamentary maneuvers to block passage of such legislation. To bring a bill to the floor for a vote will require not just a majority but 60 votes in some cases. The stiff opposition of many Democrats will not be the only potential obstacle. The hesitancy of some Republicans to vote in line with their pro-life constituents also may be a problem.
Other pro-life legislation approved in the last session by the House but not acted on in the Senate consisted of:
— The Child Custody Protection Act, which would make it a federal offense for a person to transport a minor across state lines for an abortion when the state in which the girl lives requires either parental notification or consent before such a procedure.
— The Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which would recognize an unborn baby as a crime victim when he is injured or slain during a federal offense against his mother.
— The Abortion Non-discrimination Act, which would clarify that federal law protects the consciences of medical students who do not want to learn how to do abortions, doctors who are opposed to providing abortions and healthcare entities that do not want to offer abortion services.
The Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act would prohibit a specific product that involves the killing of a nearly totally delivered child, normally in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy.
The Human Cloning Prohibition Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., in the last session, would bar cloning for both reproductive and research purposes. Other cloning bans proposed in the Senate would permit research cloning. Brownback is expected to push his measure early in the next session.
Supporters of a comprehensive ban oppose the other measures because research cloning results in the destruction of embryos. Scientists clone embryos in order to obtain stem cells for research into cures for various diseases.
The increase in Republicans and pro-life senators also is expected to mean confirmation for Bush judicial nominees who have expressed support for limitations on abortion rights.
In a lame-duck session after the election, pro-lifers won a significant victory without the help of the Republican leadership. House leaders pushed to the floor a conference committee report on bankruptcy reform that included a provision that would have prevented peaceful pro-life protesters from filing for bankruptcy when fined by courts. Reps. Joseph Pitts, R.-Pa., and Chris Smith, R.-N.J., led the pro-life contingent that helped defeat the legislation because of the controversial language, which was inserted by Sen. Charles Schumer, D.-N.Y.