by Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq.
November 5, 2004
This election was supposed to be about terrorism, the economy, and Iraq. But there was a more pressing issue that motivated people to vote this year, and that was the issue of moral values.
According to exit polls from the National Election Pool, the official election source for broadcast and cable television stations, "moral values" was cited as the most important issue this election by more people than any other concern. The economy and jobs was next, followed by terrorism, then the war in Iraq. Among those who cited moral values as paramount, 80 percent voted for Bush and 18 percent voted for Kerry.
While abortion and marriage certainly were not the centerpiece of either campaign, their importance to voters cannot be underestimated.
Eleven states had ballot initiatives to defend traditional marriage, and each one passed by a healthy margin. Sixty-five percent of Floridians voted to overturn bad court rulings and amend their constitution to allow enactment of a law requiring parental notification for minor girls seeking abortions. Only California bucked the apparent moral values trend, by voting to put billions of dollars into embryonic stem cell and human cloning research.
The 2002 mid-term election suggested that the pro-life position is a "plus" for candidates, and this election proved it again. The House of Representatives will have more pro-life votes after this election, but the real story is the Senate, where there were significant pro-life gains. New Senators who vote pro-life were elected in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and South Dakota. In Louisiana, a Senator who sometimes voted pro-life was replaced by a strong supporter of the cause.
These new Senators will provide a stronger margin in the Senate on issues like abortion, human cloning, and embryo-destructive research. Their most significant impact, however, may be on judicial nominations.
In a statement issued the day after the election, NARAL Pro-Choice America's President Elizabeth Cavendish warned President Bush against trying to "pack the Supreme Court with new anti-choice zealots." Planned Parenthood's Gloria Feldt promised to "fight these and many other battles" with "unity of purpose and fierceness of heart to protect our human rights."
These and other abortion advocates are utterly out of step with the world around them.
Last year the pro-abortion Center for Gender Equality published a survey of women showing the startling result that, of all the "top priority" issues for the women's movement, "keeping abortion legal" ranked dead last. The survey also showed that a majority of women -- 51 percent -- believe that abortion should never be permitted, or permitted only in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment (2 percent of abortions yearly).
More good news comes from the recent Pace University/Rock the Vote poll. "Rock the Vote" was launched by MTV in 1992 to get young people to register to vote. And where do these super-hip-MTV-rock-the-voters stand on abortion? According to their own poll, 54% of them are pro-life.
It shouldn't have surprised us that "moral values" came first.
Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq. is the Director of Planning and Information for the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.