Special election upset in Massachusetts a hopeful sign for pro-life advocates
September 29, 2011, (LifeSiteNews.com) - In Massachusetts, the first state in the union to legalize homosexual “marriage,” supporters of traditional values are accustomed to being out-numbered and out-voted. But the unlikely victory of a solidly pro-life candidate in the state’s 12th District in last month’s special election has some pro-family advocates saying that the tide may be turning.
Republican Keiko Orrall defeated Democratic candidate Roger Brunelle, Jr. in a special election held September 21st, claiming a seat in the state legislature that has been occupied by a Democrat for 30 consecutive years.
Orrall, a mother of two and a former public school teacher, received enthusiastic support during her campaign from the Massachusetts Family Institute and Massachusetts Citizens for Life (MCFL).
MCFL President Anne Fox told LifeSiteNews in an interview that she became excited about Orrall’s campaign when the candidate returned a questionnaire to MCFL with solidly pro-life responses to questions about parental consent, informed consent laws, taxpayer funding of abortion, stem cell research, cloning, and physician assisted suicide.
Fox explained that many candidates would not even bother to return such a questionnaire for a special election. The organization never heard back from Brunelle’s office.
Orrall, however, not only returned the questionnaire with pro-life answers to every question, but personally called MCFL and affirmed her commitment to supporting their cause in Boston.
Orrall’s support for family values was also vouched for by an unlikely source – Mark Belanger, a self-identified “liberal” blogger and columnist for the local paper in Middleboro, Massachusetts, which has two precincts in the 12th District.
Belanger sent his own questionnaire to the two candidates and, like MCFL, received a response only from Orrall. He published her answers on his blog the week before the election, explaining that the Middleboro Gazette would not allow him to do a column about the survey without responses from both candidates.
“These are pretty tough and controversial questions. Keiko answered them honestly knowing that I wouldn’t like some of her answers – particularly the ones on social issues. Her opponent didn’t bother to answer at all,” Belanger wrote.
Orrall identified herself in Belanger’s questionnaire as a social conservative, a supporter of traditional family values, and an opponent of same-sex “marriage,” abortion, and taxpayer funding of abortion.
Enthused by Orrall’s pro-life credentials, MCFL staff worked hard to help her obtain victory. They identified 800 families from the 12th District on their state Political Action Committee’s contact list, called all of them, and sent follow-up post cards urging them to get to the polls on September 21st.
According to election results published by Red Mass Group, Orrall ended up winning by just 373 votes.
“The effort of MCFL State PAC no doubt played a major role in Orrall’s victory,” wrote Karen Cross, National Right to Life Political Director, in an article published by National Right to Life news the day after the election. “Keiko will be another State House vote to protect life.”
The celebration, Fox explained, is not about ousting the Democratic Party but rather about the fact that a pro-life candidate won against incredible odds.
Fox says that the district, which includes only select precincts from two different cities and three different towns, has been gerrymandered – the borders deliberately drawn to disadvantage Orrall’s party. Orrall was also going up against a candidate who had labor union endorsement in a heavily working class district.
According to Fox, Orrall’s victory is part of the larger picture of a changing political climate in Massachusetts. “Before the election last fall we might as well not go up to the state house, I mean, we had so few people up there,” she said.
In November of 2010, however, Massachusetts voters sent new pro-life legislators from both political parties to Boston.
After the election, MCFL sent a letter to the head of the Republican state committee, pointing out that pro-abortion Republicans had lost elections across Massachusetts.
“We have at least three Republican women who are very pro-life,” Fox said. “They’re well-spoken and they ask good questions at committees. You can be proud of having them there. [Orrall] seems like that type.”
“Everyone has this perception that all these women leaders would obviously be pro-abortion, so I think that it helps to educate people,” she added.
Fox thinks that on the issue of abortion, the tide of public opinion is turning in a pro-life direction in Massachusetts. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, this appears to be consistent with the national trend. The research center published a study in 2009 which found that support for legal abortion was decreasing in the United States.
For embattled pro-life activists in Massachusetts, this could mean good things are in store.
MCFL is hoping to get Laura’s Law out of committee this year, a bill that would ensure that women seeking an abortion are informed of the risks involved, offered an ultrasound, and required to observe a waiting period.
According to Fox, they’re edging in on 50% support for the law in the House. That in itself, she says, is “a huge moral victory.”