Earlier this week I submitted my ballot for the November general election, and I voted for pro-life candidates. I want to encourage you to take time to vote in this election, and I'd like to tell you why voting pro-life matters to me.
The lives of millions of are at risk. A simple political choice can put the lives of so many in harms way. If we really do value life, and we make this a top issue, then we must vote for the candidate with the strongest record for supporting pro-life issues.
I value life, so I must consider many issues when studying a candidate. I made a short list of 3 pro-life issues:
1) Healthcare. If women have better access to healthcare and reproductive control, there will be fewer children born and fewer abortions because there will be fewer pregnancies. This is good for families and communities, and it is more environmentally sustainable. Healthcare should cover all people, so that everyone has access to a healthy life without the threat of uncovered medical expenses destroying them. Access to healthcare is a top pro-life issue.
2) War. Wars destroy many lives and devastate even more. Families and communities are ripped apart. Wars also cause extreme environmental damage both in the places of fighting, but also in the places where natural resources used to create the machinery of war are extracted (metals, energy, oil, wood, electronics, etc.). War is rarely necessary, and must be enacted only under dire circumstances, and with the full knowledge of the cost to life that war demands. Foreign policy based on diplomatic negotiations and not war is a top pro-life issue.
3) Environment. If we value only the lives of people alive on this planet at this time, we are short-sighted. Because I value the lives of those yet to be born, and the lives of other organisms, I must consider a top pro-life issue to be that of environmental protection.
So being pro-life, which presidential candidate did I vote for today?
On considering my short-list of 3 pro-life positions:
1a) Healthcare: Only one candidate believes that access to healthcare is a right, and has created a plan by which this country could easily and affordably offer healthcare to all citizens. This would increase the care that women receive and access to family planning. This decreases the number of unwanted pregnancies and consequently the number of abortions. Universal access to healthcare would improve the care of all pregnant women, and provide care to babies and children. The number of people dying from easily prevented illnesses would decrease, and the health of others improves, increasing the quality of life. The last census reported about 2.5 million US deaths/year; about 1 million of these deaths are related to lack of adequate healthcare, and could have been prevented. Additionally, of the 4 million babies were born the same year, nearly 20% were born to mothers who received no early, critical (first trimester) prenatal care. Many of those children will grow up with no healthcare, will not have a primary physician, will miss more than 11 days of school each year (which increases likelihood of school drop-out followed by criminal behavior), and will have limited activity due to chronic health and/or respiratory conditions, joining their obese (5-25%) classmates, growing up to be in the group of people with the most chronic health issues, putting the greatest economic burden on healthcare systems.
2a) War. One candidate strongly opposes war as a general solution, and instead believes that diplomacy provides better resolution to conflict. War is topic of heated debated because our country currently has citizens deployed in many countries. Since we invaded Iraq, over 4,000 US citizens have died in that conflict, a number that pales when compared to the over 100,000 documented Iraqi civilian deaths. These numbers are just one example from one country--we have about 370,000 soldiers serving in more than 150 countries. Yes, some of these soldiers are on peace-keeping and embassy duties, but most are involved in combat. Ironically, we have a paucity of military personnel in areas where we could provide the greatest benefit to innocent lives, places where people die from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and civil wars; in the last decade alone, there are millions of documented deaths of this kind. Considering where the US exerts military force is a pro-life issue. We must consider the cost of war when voting pro-life.
3a) Environment. One cost of war, often overlooked, is the environmental cost. The extraction and destruction of natural resources, for an activity such as a war, is nearly incalculable. Actually, everything we do in life involves the extraction of resources from this finite pie we call earth. Sitting here, typing on this computer is resource intensive; imagine all that goes into building this computer, this office, the food I'm eating for energy and coffee that keeps me awake, the cell phone that just rang which is plugged into a wall where electrons keep the battery charged when it's not plugged into my car (many natural resources used here) which got me to my field sites today (ironically, to do climate change research). Sleeping, eating, commuting, working, playing--everything uses resources. Every item we purchase represents some extraction of resources from the earth. How we ration these resources in the coming years is critical to our life, and to the lives of all who come to this planet after us (not to mention all the other organisms that are trying to share this globe with us). I would argue that the number one pro-life issue for voters should be supporting a candidate with a better plan for improving the stewardship of this planet. This candidate must be considering renewable energy policies, must have plans to limit the damage that the US directly and indirectly inflicts globally, must recognize that a growing economy translates into an increased rate of resource extraction and consequently, environmental damage; that isn't sustainable, nor is it making people happier. Hundreds of thousands of people globally die each year as result of environmental degradation, and in part, each of us is to blame; it's our hunger for cheap energy, electronics, food, clothes, wood, toys, etc. that drive multinational corporations to countries where they can get away with doing business in a way that damages the local environment.
There were around 1 million abortions in the US this year. This is a big number---there are far too many abortions. We must do something about those deaths. We can reduce abortions through sex-education programs, access to family planning tools for all people (globally), and improved, affordable healthcare. In fact, we have seen abortion numbers decline to the lowest levels in over 30 years, because these methods help prevent pregnancies, obviating the need for abortions. By empowering women, all over the world, to make informed choices about planning families, we can reduce the number of abortions here and abroad, and also the number of births, which is a more environmentally sustainable than current population growth rates.
But when I, as a pro-life voter consider all the other deaths and issues related to death/life that a political leader of this country must face, I realize that making a pro-life choice based on a single issue, abortion, is short-sighted. In this year alone, more than 11 million children will die from preventable diseases==a number over an order of magnitude greater than the number of abortions. The number of global deaths this year will be about 60 million. Although it is hard to estimate how many could have been prevented (delayed, really, but here I use prevented to mean deaths caused prematurely by a causative action/condition) and how many are related to US policies that promote international environmental degradation, or US wars, a quick glance at a few statistics helps me make a conservative estimate that we have at least partial blame for at least 10 million of these deaths. Consider also that with a very small amount of international aid (less money than the bank bail-out package, and a part of a percent of the cost of the Iraq war), we could easily prevent at least another 10 million deaths. If I tally that up, it seems we US citizens have a role in about 1/3 of the deaths around the world!
Considering these numbers and the policies of our presidential candidates, Barack Obama is 20-30* times more pro-life** than John McCain. The choice was simple.
N.B. Statistics and rates were gathered from US census reports, World Health Organization and United Nations reports, with additional information from these websites: genocide.org, bbc.co.uk and pbs.org.