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Illinois Federation

For Right to Life

Daily News

The congressman from western North Carolina established himself last year, his first in the House of Representatives, as one of the half-dozen most reliably pro-life Democrats in that chamber. Shuler and five other Democratic members compiled 85 percent voting records, according to the scorecard compiled by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), making them the top pro-life congressmen in their party.


In contrast, 197 House Democrats received ratings of 0 from NRLC.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Heath Shuler: Rare pro-life Democrat in Congress

Heath Shuler is that rarest of Democrats in Congress - the pro-lifer.

Despite his status in a party that is overwhelmingly committed to abortion rights, Shuler, a Southern Baptist, says he feels no pressure to conform when a vote on a "life" issue approaches.


"They know who I am, how I stand, and they never ask any questions," he told Baptist Press. "They can go find someone else to push on, because they know they'll never get it out of me."

Even some of the leading pro-life Republicans rated no better than 85 percent in NRLC's 2007 ratings. New Jersey's Chris Smith -- widely considered the pro-life leader of the House - along with Ohio's Steve Chabot and Virginia's Frank Wolf all received scores of 85. Like Shuler, they voted for a Medicare prescription bill that NRLC opposed because it believed the measure would prevent the elderly from spending their own money on drugs.


Shuler, though, extends his pro-life stance beyond such issues as abortion, embryonic stem cell research and cloning. To be pro-life, for him, means voting for government proposals in support of prescription benefits for the old and health care for the young. Also unlike many conservative Republicans, he has declined to endorse a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, though he opposes "gay marriage."


There is no question Shuler, 36, is one of the more conservative congressmen in a party dominated by liberals. He defeated an eight-term Republican congressman, Charles Taylor, in 2006 by winning 54 percent of the vote in a district where, he says, "in some instances there's very few differences in some of our rural areas in western North Carolina that separate the two parties."


He is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, which focuses on fiscal responsibility and describes itself as a group that gives "moderate and conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives a common sense, bridge-building voice within the institution."


Shuler made a name for himself in western North Carolina as the star quarterback of state championship teams at Swain County High School. He also excelled at the nearby University of Tennessee, winning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors in 1993 and finished second in Heisman Trophy balloting. He was a first-round selection in the National Football League's 1994 draft, but after five years in the league and a series of foot injuries, Shuler retired.


The member of Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, N.C., succeeded as a small business owner, opening a real estate brokerage firm and several real estate companies before running for Congress.


Shuler discussed politics and his policy positions in a March interview with Baptist Press in his Capitol Hill office. To read a portion of the edited transcript from that interview, please CLICK HERE.


Contact: Tom Strode

Source: Baptist Press

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The IFRL is the largest grassroots pro-life organization in Illinois. A non-profit organization, that serves as the state coordinating body for local pro-life chapters representing thousands of Illinois citizens working to restore respect for all human life in our society. The IFRL is composed of people of different political persuasions, various faiths and diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. Since 1973 the Illinois Federation for Right to Life has been working to end abortion and restore legal protection to those members of the human family who are threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Diverse though we are, we hold one common belief - that every human being has an inalienable right to life that is precious and must be protected. IFRL is dedicated to restoring the right to life to the unborn, and protection for the disabled and the elderly. Click here to learn more about the IFRL.