LaSALLE - Monroe County could decide the fate of Proposal 2 and other issues and candidate races that involve the sanctity and protection of human life.
And just voting isn't enough, says Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life and one of the nation's prominent prolife leaders.
He said Thursday that prolifers need to mobilize and help others get to the polls and understand what the issues are and what candidates really stand for.
"It all comes down to turnout," Father Pavone, 49, told about 270 guests at the Monroe County Right to Life's annual "Focus on Life" dinner Thursday night at LaRoy's Hall. "We have got to work like crazy to mobilize other voters. It's up to us. The outcomes could rest with the people sitting in this room and the influence we have with us now. "
He called abortion the "greatest human rights cause of our time" and said citizens have a "tremendous opportunity and responsibility" to help those who may need a ride to vote or who need information to help them understand the issues and candidates.
"These are times that demand serious sacrifices and steps," he said in a booming voice. "You influence people who trust you. They need to hear it from you."
He praised the work and educational goals of Right to Life of Michigan, of which Monroe County is a key affiliate.
"You are the model for the rest of the country," he said. "The impact you are having goes well beyond the borders of Michigan."
He said efforts by organizations like Right to Life, Heartbeat, Knights of Columbus and Lutherans for Life are turning the tide of public opinion against legalized abortion.
"I'm more convinced than ever ... that victory is closer than we realize," he said. "The days of legal abortion are numbered."
He said the media has made an effort to downplay the issue, but abortion remains an integral factor in who and what issues people support.
"It is one of the determining factors who they vote for," Father Pavone said. "I've seen this number growing. In one poll, it showed 40 percent of the electorate consider it the single overriding factor" in how they vote.
Those who vote prolife generally turn out in greater numbers at the polls than their opponents by a 2-to-1 margin. That happens despite pro-abortion groups like Emily's List and Planned Parenthood that far outspend prolife forces to promote abortions. In one state, prolife efforts were successful in 14 out of 18 races.
"It's not the number of dollars spent that's counted" at the polls, he said. "The other side has more money, but we have more people who actually vote. For every one person who votes for abortion, two will vote against... we have enough to sway a close election."
Prolifers are concerned for the poor and the disenfranchised, but their efforts are ignored by the mainstream media, Father Pavone said.
"Respect for life is at the heart and core of every issue" in the election, Father Pavone said. "It's the foundation, the center of all our efforts for justice and peace. The dignity of every person... If you take that away, how on earth can we welcome society and immigrants when we can't take care of innocent life? How can we preserve the peace between nations when we can't even preserve peace between a mother and child?"
An estimated 50 million babies have been aborted since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in 1973. Father Pavone said that Americans are seeing the ripple effects of the high court's ruling: the breakdown in families and marriages, substance abuse and difficulty in relationships. He cited teachings of Pope John Paul II who warned that when government permits abortion and euthanasia, it becomes a "tyrant state" and the right to life no longer becomes an inherent right as stated in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.
"Is the government bestowing those rights or do they come from God our creator?" he asked. "What authority do we give them whom we put into office? The government's nature is radically altered."
The noted author of "Ending Abortion," Father Pavone uses one criteria for determining where a candidate stands on abortion: is the candidate "serving the public versus killing the public."
Many candidates waffle on the issue, giving the impression they oppose abortion, when their voting record shows otherwise, he said.
"Unfortunately, there are some who can't tell the difference between the two," he said. "They have no place in public office. If they can't tell the difference between protecting an (unborn) baby, how can they say they will represent you?"
Father Pavone first became involved in the prolife movement when he walked in the 1976 March for Life in Washington, D.C., at age 17. Based in New York City, he has spoken in all 50 states and in five continents, including an address to the clergy in India on the invitation of Mother Teresa. He also was with Terri Schiavo in her final moments in Florida and was an outspoken advocate for her life.
Cathy Yaeger of New Boston said she was moved by the priest's "sincerity, fervor and dedication to the cause." Sue Hennicken, who sat with members of Christian Mothers of Ida, called the 1 1/2-hour speech invigorating.
"If they (government) can't take care of us in the womb, how can they take care of the living?" she asked.
Robert Burke, president of Monroe County RTL, said the tide is also turning against Proposal 2, the statewide proposal that would allow the "buying, selling and killing of human embryos for experimentation."
A few months ago, polls showed that 64 percent of the eligible voters favored the measure. Today, only 54 percent of it support the measure, which is strongly opposed by RTL.
"The media makes it look like we've already lost," Tony Baldwin of Toledo, said.
Father Pavone said the prolife message is not just "pro-Republican" and would be the same if the two major political parties switched sides on abortion. He expressed confidence that the unborn would be protected under the law "sooner than we think." He also said prolifers should not be dismayed by the "psychological warfare" against them and continue to support people in despair.
"You and I are part of a movement," he said. "We don't look to politics for our salvation. We look to Jesus Christ who jumped into our (world) pain and confusion and who suffered for us... that's why we mind the business of people who are in such despair and who feel they have to have an abortion."