National Catholic Register


Families, Defend Your Rights! A Fourth of July Call to Arms

You can't stop it. Election 2004 is coming.

BY Marjorie Dannenfelser

June 29-July 5, 2003 Issue | Posted 6/29/03 at 1:00 PM


Not that you would want to. Maybe I'm just projecting, but each time election season rolls around, part of me says, “Aren't there people better equipped, mothers at a more appropriate stage in life, women who have fewer children, who have more money, who have more help, who are younger, skinnier, more organized (fill in the blank)? These are the folks who need to step up to the plate and ensure protection for the family — and my family.” Then I realize which side of me is talking: the cave-dweller side.

And I remember that everyone can fill in the blank with something.

Meanwhile, who's out there articulating a compelling vision that inspires our entire nation to work together as a community of families? Who's working hard to elect those wise leaders who also vote for laws and judges supportive of the vision? Who will argue against decriminalizing pedophilia, as the American Psychiatric Association is now discussing? Who will stand up on the floors of Congress and argue against late-term and partial-birth abortion, abortion for our children or any callous practice that purports to empower the strong at the expense of the weak?

Who in the media will insist modern feminists are demolishing what is beautiful and strong in authentic femininity? If not you and me, who?

I remind myself why I got involved a long time ago to help elect pro-life women to public office. When I worked on Capitol Hill, I remember what it felt like and how unreasonable it was that woman after woman stepped up to make a speech about how American women “deserved” abortion. Where were the women saying, “We deserve better than abortion!”?

No one understands this or articulates it better than the head of the Christian family, the Holy Father: “Families should be the first to take steps to see that the laws and institutions of the state not only do not offend but also support and positively defend the rights and duties of the family … and assume responsibility for transforming society; otherwise families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference” (Familiaris Consortio, The Family in the Modern World, No. 44).

Our obligation couldn't be clearer. And yet, if you look at the data from the census and voting records as the Susan B. Anthony List has recently done in a handful of states, you'll see cave dwellers as far as the eye can see. In a test program launched in the 2002 election, the Susan B. Anthony List found that hundreds of thousands of pro-life women in just a handful of states are not regularly voting. Not voting! And certainly not “transforming society” in the public sphere. The great beauty of the American political system is that each of those votes matters. Look at Missouri, Louisiana and Minnesota. In key Senate races in each of those states in the 2002 election, fewer than 25,000 votes decided each outcome.

Clearly, failing to vote can have serious consequences.

This July 4, we can take a cue from the founding fathers that our great system of democracy works. The American experiment only works if our moral underpinnings remain sound. Each one of us, along with those hundreds of thousands of women voters — and the millions more the Susan B. Anthony List plans to track down and contact in the rest of the United States — is responsible for helping maintain that foundation.

There is power in one vote. And when each one who votes also takes some step beyond that, however small, we begin to transform the culture into a civilization of justice and love. It's simple and it works. Thank you, founding fathers and suffragist Susan B. Anthony.

Emily's List, the largest political action committee in the nation (richer than the American Medical Association and the National Rifle Association), understands this well. Emily's List elects Democratic women who support abortion. Ten years ago, it began a voter-identification project along the same lines as the Susan B. Anthony List.

In the year 2000, Emily's List won three key U.S. Senate races after targeted voter-identification and get-out-the-vote campaigns aimed at 8 million women in 12 states that could easily tip either way on the abortion issue. They raised $33.7 million in the 2002 election cycle and are coordinating with other groups to raise $45 to $50 million for elections in 2004. A liberal estimate of the budget on the life-affirming side? About a tenth of that number.

They have more money, yes. Defenders of the family and unborn children have savvy leaders, many volunteers, good organization and the determination and generosity that is rooted in the truth about the human rights of God's creatures.

We are like the lean and scrappy revolutionary army declaring on July 4 that they would face down a vast empire.

The history of our founding shows we can prevail.

Marjorie Dannenfelser is a mother to five children and serves as chairman of the board of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that works to involve pro-life women in the political process.