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FIRST-PERSON: Pro-life but pro-abortion? The debate over mercury

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

WASHINGTON (BP) -- How do you transform politicians with overwhelmingly pro-abortion voting records into pro-life?

If you're the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), you just redefine the terms.


EEN thinks if you support the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed new limit on mercury emissions from power plants, you're pro-life. And if you oppose it, you're not.

Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin of Michigan each had 100 percent pro-abortion voting records in the 110th Congress (2007-2008), and Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine each had 88 percent pro-abortion voting records. But if EEN has its way, voters will think they're pro-life.

And EEN implies that Republican Sen. John Boozman (Ark.) and Republican Rep. Bob Latta (Ohio), both with 100 percent pro-life voting records, might not really be pro-life, because Boozman doesn't support, and Latta opposes, EPA's new regulation.

EEN is running radio and television ads and placing billboards in nine states claiming 11 politicians are pro-life if they support the EPA's proposal, even though at least four support abortion rights.

How does EEN justify calling these pro-abortion politicians pro-life? It says 1 in 6 American babies is born with a harmful blood mercury level, so support for EPA's proposed regulation qualifies one as pro-life.

In EEN's radio spots, Tracey Bianchi, a Chicago-area pastor, says, "Every life is a precious gift from God and I expect members of Congress who say they are pro-life to use their power to protect that life, especially the unborn. ... The EPA's mercury regulations were created specifically to protect the unborn from the devastating impacts of mercury which causes permanent brain damage in the unborn and infants."


"Devastating impacts"? "Permanent brain damage"?

The truth, documented in The Cost of Good Intentions: The Ethics and Economics of the War Against Conventional Energy, a scholarly study published this fall by The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, an evangelical think tank, is that not 1 in 6 but about 1 in 1,000 American babies is exposed to mercury at a level above the EPA's "reference dose" of 5.8 parts per billion. Further, no harm has been detected at any level below 85 parts per billion (over 14 times higher than the "reference dose") -- a level that studies indicate no American babies experience. Even at that level, the observable harm is a temporary, almost undetectable delay in neurological development.

Abortion doesn't simply cause a minor reduction in brain development. It stops it -- dead. It doesn't cause temporary, almost undetectable reduction in neurological development among 1 in 6 babies. It kills 1 in 5 babies conceived in America (22 percent) -- more than 3,000 every day. Since 1973, because of abortion, more than 54 million babies (equal to almost one-sixth of America's current population) have been dead on arrival.

Yet EEN insists that politicians who support the continued intentional massacre of more than a million babies a year can proudly wear the pro-life label so long as they support the EPA's plan to impose new restrictions on mercury emissions. Yet, ironically, those restrictions would cost the American economy so much in higher electricity costs (about $42.5 billion per year) that economists estimate the result could be 2,500 to 4,250 extra deaths every year, making EEN's "pro-life" policy one that leads to more deaths.


Even accepting EEN's bogus numbers and exaggerated harms, this is one of the most Machiavellian campaigns in American political history. Whether intentionally or not, it will water down the meaning of "pro-life," split the pro-life vote, and cripple the effort to protect the lives of the unborn in America.

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., a theologian and environmental ethicist, is founder and national spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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