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The Foundational Issue of Our Times

July 2009
By: Thomas Glessner
I was encouraged recently by the results of a Gallup public opinion poll on abortion taken in May. The poll found 51 percent of Americans calling themselves "pro-life" and 42 percent "pro-choice." This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995. Even more astounding is the fact that a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center recorded an 8 percentage-point decline since last August in those saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, from 54 percent to 46 percent.

These results, obtained from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey, represent a significant shift from a year ago, when 50 percent were pro-choice and 44 percent pro-life. Previously, the highest percentage identifying themselves as pro-life was 46 percent, in both August 2001 and May 2002.

It would appear that the dedicated work of those involved in the pro-life movement is having an impact in shaping public opinion. The work of pregnancy resource centers using ultrasound to show the humanity of the unborn child certainly tops the list of pro-life activities that have affected this change in public opinion. The work of pro-life activists in the public and political arenas has also clearly influenced public opinion.

These findings are good news, and we should be optimistic about the future. However, succeeding in the task of achieving an abortion-free America is going to require heightened and intense efforts on the part of those who believe in the sanctity of life ethic. While our viewpoint may be the majority opinion right now, it is not the ruling ethic that dominates our public policy. Until current public policy changes, abortion will continue unabated.

President Obama and members of his majority Democrat Party are unabashedly pro-abortion, and the president has moved quickly to establish abortion on demand as an official policy of the United States government. So we must ask ourselves this one question: How can we reconcile the fact that an increasingly pro-life public elected the most pro-abortion president and Congress in our history?

I believe that while a majority of the public is pro-life, a majority of the voters are not yet willing to base their vote for any office on this one issue. People do not want to be identified as 'single-issue' voters, and when many who are pro-life are asked how such convictions influence their vote they reply: "Of course I am against abortion, but I am not a 'single-issue' voter. Other issues are important as well." Accordingly, many of these voters vote for a pro-abortion candidate because they determine that while the position of such candidate on abortion is wrong, they agree with him on a host of other issues that they also deem important.

This kind of reasoning occurs because the public has allowed the media to tag pro-life voters as 'single-issue' voters who do not care about other crucial matters that are impacting the nation. Of course, we all are concerned about the economy, the environment, education, taxes and other critical issues. However, abortion is not just a single issue — one among many of which we are concerned. Rather, abortion is a fundamental issue upon which all other issues depend.

We are not 'single-issue' voters. Rather, our vote is based upon whether or not a candidate is correct on the fundamental issue of our time — the right to life. Without the right to life, all other issues are meaningless. The right to life is a fundamental issue upon which we judge the worthiness of any candidate for public office. The importance of other issues pales in comparison. And any candidate who denies this basic principle is not qualified to hold office.

Our nation was created on a sound belief in the sanctity of human life. The founding document of our nation, the Declaration of Independence, states that all humans are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights with the first of such rights being the right to life. Likewise, our Constitution in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments protects the taking of the life of a person without due process of law. Again, life is the first right mentioned in the Constitution ahead of the rights to liberty and property.

Until the majority of Americans who hold pro-life convictions understand that abortion and life-related issues are fundamental to the continued existence of the American republic, we, unfortunately, will continue to elect representatives who do not share such a view. Until the majority of Americans insist that all who represent us in the political arena stand firmly in favor of the foundational issue of life, abortion will continue.

It is good news that the majority of Americans now classify themselves as pro-life. We must now translate such public sentiment into the political arena so that a majority of our public officials hold such a view.

The right to life is the fundamental issue of our time. When the majority of Americans insist that this fundamental right must never be denied to any class of human beings, then abortion will end in America.

Thomas A. Glessner is president of NIFLA and can be contacted at 540-372-3930 or

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