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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Marjorie Dannenfelser | author
Sep 01, 2014
Filed under Culture of Life

The ballot box and the power to save lives

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER: Legates must engage politically during this fall’s elections . . .

Marjorie Dannenfelser

Marjorie Dannenfelser

Pro-lifers and religious liberty lovers cheered the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 30 Hobby Lobby ruling, which confirmed that religious people don’t have to choose between their faith and their business.

The hostile response to this modest win, however, is a clear indication that the battle to keep our voices is far from over. Our responsibility as Catholics to engage in the public square has reached a tipping point. Last year Pope Francis spoke of our obligation to engage politically: “I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability. We all have something to give!”

Not one of us can shirk this responsibility to participate — to reach out to the marginalized, the weak and the vulnerable. What use is it to fight for our own voices when we don’t use them to fight for those who have none?

The unborn child has no voice. As the abortionist’s instrument draws near, she emits a silent scream, recoiling from the pain. In fact, research shows that by at least five months gestation (20 weeks), the developing child feels pain, making abortion a particularly excruciating death. A recent study by the Charlotte Lozier Institute found that the U.S. is one of only seven countries — including China and North Korea — to allow abortion beyond this point.

Groaning under the burden of this brutal national distinction, 13 states have already passed laws to address this butchery. Last year, Washington took notice. At the encouragement of Susan B. Anthony List, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a compassionate, common-sense limit.

Despite the efforts of our coalition in the U.S. Senate, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), pro-abortion Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has repeatedly blocked advancement of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in the second chamber. That’s why SBA List and our partner, Women Speak Out PAC, has launched a multi-state campaign targeting vulnerable senators in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana — all who oppose the five-month limit.

For the last few weeks and through Election Day, our pro-life volunteers will knock on thousands of doors to speak face-to-face with pro-life and swing voters, educating them about this historic legislation and encouraging them to elect a senator who will support it. Gains made at the ballot box will translate directly to Congress, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has already pledged to bring the Pain- Capable bill to a vote if his party takes the majority.

All of this gets us one step closer to our goal of saving the 18,000 children whose lives are ended by late abortion every year — 18,000 unique individuals who were sent to this world with a purpose. The consequences of failing to act are dire. Real lives hang in the balance. Lives like Charlotte Ryun — an extraordinary little girl who is the feature of our Women Speak Out media campaign. Charlotte’s parents, Ned and Rebecca explain how their daughter, born premature at 24 weeks, fought desperately to survive. Charlotte and other miracle babies like her are a testament to the humanity of all unborn children currently unprotected by law.

It can be easy to “check out” when it comes to politics. The outcomes seem inaccessible, the leaders disinterested. Sometimes this is true and sometimes it’s not, but our obligation remains the same: We must allow Christ’s love to transform our environment. When it is toxic and death-dealing, there is all the more reason to take what we’ve been given as Catholics — passion for bettering this world by protecting and welcoming the vulnerable — and share it. In the words of St. Catherine of Sienna: If we are what we should be, we will go out and set the world on fire!

Of all people, candidates and elected officials — especially pro- life ones — have an ability to grasp this edict deeply. It’s easy to underestimate the threats to their positive leadership. To fight for life is to make sacrifices. Whether it’s in Washington or a state house, true heroes often go without much family time, without the comforts of home and all that entails. Because there is much to accomplish (our Founding Founders spelled it out very clearly), there is much to lose. When we lose our moral and religious core, our nation suffers.

Thomas Jefferson and others warned what would happen to our form of governance if morality and religion lost hold on the hearts and minds of citizens and leaders. The experiment in democracy would fail. Children who were sent to solve our most intractable problems will continue to die before they get a chance if we put off for another day exercising our civic duty to fight for their lives. We have the power to elect leaders who will pass laws to save their lives.  Let’s use it.

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER is the president of the Susan B. Anthony List and a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter.


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