By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
The November elections have come and gone. No more irritating ads. No more yard signs. No more unwanted political flyers. It’s finally over—at least for another two years. The ramifications, however, are just beginning.
The dominant media culture as well as average citizens are still analyzing the results of the mid-term elections. There is no shortage of opinions. One thing is certain: with the opening of the 110th Congress in January 2007, there will be a shift of power that will not bode well for the unborn, those with severe disabilities, and those with traditional values.
The sad reality is the dignity of every human being—especially of the most vulnerable—was dealt a serious blow by the 2006 mid-term elections.
In November 12th interview with the Zenit news agency, journalist Russell Shaw (who has served as a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for 10 years and was recently elected to another 5 year term) summed it up: “[The impact of the November elections] means no new pro-life legislation at the federal level in the next two years. In fact, pro-lifers will have their hands full protecting gains already made. Even more serious, in the new Senate the pro-choice side will be able to defeat any new Supreme Court nominees resembling Roberts and Alito that the president might send up.”
Failed referenda in California and Oregon
In addition to the change in the national political landscape, there were four failed state referenda that have abortion apologists and moral relativists cheering. California and Oregon rejected (54 to 46 percent) attempts to ensure that parents of underage girls seeking abortion would be notified.
Most people agree that parents should be involved in major decisions made by their minor children. In California, all non-emergency medical procedures on boys and girls under the age of 18 must have parental consent. It is not unreasonable to expect that parents should at least be informed when their minor daughters are seeking an abortion—a procedure than can have serious physical and emotional consequences.
According to the National Abortion Federation, “forty-four states have passed laws requiring either parental notification or consent, in some cases even by both parents.” The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has upheld these parental involvement laws as long as there is a provision for judicial bypass.
With misleading, dishonest advertising from Planned Parenthood, the League of Women Voters, various medical associations, the Oregon Education Association, and the California Teachers Association it’s not surprising that California and Oregon rejected the ballot measures. What is surprising is that Oregon’s parental notification measure received the same 46 percent citizen support as did California’s proposition. I say “surprising” because Oregon has virtually no restrictions on abortion and has gone much further in removing legal parental involvement with children— Oregon does not require parental consent for medical procedures if the minor is 15 or older.
Pro-life citizens vow to be back in 2008. They will not give up—even in states as liberal as California and Oregon.
Ban goes down to defeat in South Dakota
Socially conservative South Dakota already has parental notification and a 24-hour waiting period. In March 2006, the legislature passed House Bill (HB) 1215—a bill that banned most abortions. While not a perfect law, it was anticipated that pro-abortion forces would file suit which would then send it to the Supreme Court where it would force a re-examination of Roe.
Before that could happen, Planned Parenthood and its ilk descended on South Dakota and garnered enough signatures to place a statewide initiative on the 2006 ballot in the hope of repealing the new prohibition on abortion. To cover all their bases, they also filed suit to prohibit the law from taking effect. Right on cue, one day before the law was to take effect, it was enjoined by a Federal judge. Now the citizens of South Dakota would vote on whether to uphold the abortion ban or repeal it.
As in California and Oregon, Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups led the fight against the ban. The Los Angeles Times reported that “abortion rights supporters . . . relied on money and volunteers from across the nation to defeat the ban.” What they didn’t report was how they also relied on medical disinformation and false claims to sway voters to vote “no.”
Unfortunately, the referendum was rejected by 55-45 percent. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the vast majority of legislators who voted for HB 1215 were re-elected and the pro-life people will not give up. Like pro-lifers in California and Oregon, South Dakota pro-lifers will be back in 2008.
A heartbreaking loss in Missouri
If ever there were an example of out and out lies affecting the outcome of an election, it was the battle over Missouri’s Amendment 2—the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. Unfortunately, it was narrowly passed by a mere 51 to 49 percent.
While there were a number of false assertions in the debate surrounding Amendment 2, the most egregious was that a “yes” vote would ban human cloning. This statement was widely publicized and even appeared on the website of the Missouri Secretary of State under the so-called “2006 Fair Ballot Language.”
“Fairness” would have acknowledged that the passage of amendment 2 would make cloning a constitutional right in Missouri.
Perhaps the Secretary of State was counting on the fact that the average citizen would not read the full text of the Amendment to the Missouri Constitution. Section 38 (d) 1.2. (1) states, “No person may clone or attempt to clone a human being.” Section 38 (d) 1.2. (3) states, “No stem cells may be taken from a human blastocyst more than fourteen days after cell division begins.” Section 38 (d) 1.6. (1) offers the following definition: “’Blastocyst’” means a small mass of cells that results from cell division, caused either by fertilization or somatic cell nuclear transfer, that has not been implanted in a uterus.”
“Somatic cell nuclear transfer” (SCNT) is the scientific term for cloning. How, then can the Amendment state that human cloning is banned?
What is banned is “reproductive” cloning (carrying a cloned human being to term), not “therapeutic” cloning (creating a human being and then destroying it for research purposes). Therapeutic cloning is now legal in Missouri.
Like pro-lifers in California, Oregon, and South Dakota, Missouri pro-lifers will be back in 2008.
Archbishop Raymond Burke summed up the loss in Missouri:
“The election campaign for the passage of Amendment 2 has shown us all how deeply rooted the culture of death is in our society. The experience of the campaign is a clarion call to all Catholics and other men and women of good will to rededicate ourselves to prayer and work, in order that we restore, in our state and nation, the respect for the integrity of human procreation and for the inviolable dignity of every human life, from the first moment of its existence.
The Catholic Church will continue to teach the moral law written upon every human heart, which teaches us that nothing can ever justify the artificial generation of human life and that nothing can ever justify the killing of innocent and defenseless human life.
With regard to stem-cell research, the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis stands by its unparalleled tradition of compassionate health care and pledges continued support of ethical stem-cell research.”
The same sentiments could be applied to losses in California, Oregon, and South Dakota. The defeats we experienced in this mid-term election are only a setback. We may be down, but we are not out!
We will not give up until all innocent human life—from fertilization to natural death—is respected and protected.
For additional commentary related to this topic, please see my “LifeLines” column in the December 1st edition of The Observer.