August 11, 2017

by Carolyn McElfatrick

There are many reasons people communicate with their state legislators, but for those who believe human life belongs only to God, speaking out in support of pro-life bills should be at the top of the list. Legal assault on life comes on several fronts.

One example of legislation that promotes death as the answer to problems is physician-assisted suicide. It is being debated in many states and has been legalized in several. While it seems to be making headway, it is an area in which Christians may have the greatest opportunity to affect public policy. Many people, including elected officials, may not yet have formed strong opinions. Cultural arguments often sound compassionate and are persuasive. “Why should we force people to suffer?” “If someone really wants to die, do we have the right to force them to live?” As Christians, we know these are false arguments, and we need to speak out against them.

Other legislation in which our voices of support need to be heard includes bills that limit the time during which abortions may be performed or that require safety standards on abortion facilities that are equal to those of other clinics, such as regular inspections or hospital admitting privileges.

How do we impact decisions that will be made? Obviously, it’s important to work hard to elect people at all levels of government who share your pro-life values. You need to know what they believe before they are elected. Many candidates use local office as a stepping stone to higher office.

Obviously, if you are to have an impact on legislation you should know what’s going on. Take advantage of communication from pro-life organizations or regular updates from the state legislature itself.

Influencing a legislator on upcoming life-related bills has no “one-size-fits-all” formula. Here are some suggestions, however, that may be helpful.

  • First, know what position the official took during campaigns. That gives you a starting point. Even if this is a dedicated pro-death representative, you are still responsible to God to speak the truth. Be persistent in communicating your point of view. If possible, schedule an appointment to meet him or her in person. Know how much time you are allotted and plan your comments accordingly. Legislators are usually on very tight schedules so arrive early—be organized and concise.
  • Do your homework. Have facts directly related to the proposed legislation that back up your assertions. For example, present accurate research data on how long it has taken some people to die with self-administered drugs or how many have severe side effects, such as choking, vomiting, seizures, etc. This would cast a different light on the “death with dignity” argument. Or take well-researched information on the dangerous or substandard treatment at an abortion facility. Having accurate, source-identified information is important to any pro-life argument.
  • Be prepared to talk about real-life stories. Pro-death advocates often use emotion to convince listeners their position is the right one. Too often we fail to use that powerful tool.
  • If an in-person visit is impossible, letters and emails are good alternatives. A personal note can be very effective. Mass emails will be counted as “yes” or “no” to a bill, but an original email or note shows more effort was invested and implies higher value was placed on the communication by the author. A phone call usually reaches only an assistant and will be counted simply a “for” or “against.” Even though it is unlikely you will speak with the representative, many calls to an office have an impact. It may not change the legislator’s mind, but it informs him/her there is a lot of public attention to what’s happening and that the vote will be watched.
  • Don’t forget to take advantage of town hall meetings. It’s an opportunity to speak directly with your representative. A side benefit is that all the other people in the room will also hear your common-sense statements defending life. Go as a group and plan what you will say or ask.

In all forms of communication, be concise but thorough enough to get your point across accurately. Be clear. Be respectful but definite. Remember who you are representing—the Creator of life and the defenseless. You are a voice for both and you are presenting the truth. As always, pray for wisdom and guidance.

A final word: There are representatives at all levels of government who are doing battle for you and for your values. It is usually thankless work and is often costly to them in terms of vicious attacks from the left and the associated emotional drain. Discouragement is a constant threat. A handwritten note, even if you are not in their district, to say thank you and “I’m praying for you” means more than you will ever know.