Pro-lifers and conservatives across the country have loudly decried Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) decision yesterday to pledge his vote in favor of the health care legislation, and refuse to believe that President Obama’s executive order banning federal funding of abortions will actually do what it says.
Congressman Stupak gained notoriety within the pro-life movement back in November, for his refusal to support health care legislation that would allow for taxpayer funding of abortions. He has long said that he would vote “No” on the current legislation—unless his amendment was added which would ensure no federal funding of abortions.
Then Sunday he did an about-face and pledged his vote in favor of the legislation, in a deal with President Barack Obama who issued an executive order stating that the health care bill would in no way permit government funding of abortion.
Stupak, after the President agreed to issue the executive order, then voted against reinstituting his own amendment when offered the chance by Republicans. This would have included pro-life protection in the actual legislation if it had the votes to be reinstituted.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) sharply criticized Stupak yesterday afternoon, stating his disapproval of the congressman’s exchange of “30 years of pro-life protections in the law for a piece of paper from the most pro-abortion president in American history.”
Other organizations added that the executive order would accomplish nothing for the pro-life movement. National Right to Life (NRLC) refused to accept Stupak’s deal with the president as a pro-life victory.
“The executive order promised by President Obama was issued for political effect,” stated a March 21 NRLC press release. “It changes nothing. It does not correct any of the serious pro-abortion provisions in the bill. The president cannot amend a bill by issuing an order, and the federal courts will enforce what the law says.”
“A lawmaker who votes for this bill is voting to require federal agencies to subsidize and administer health plans that will pay for elective abortion, and voting to undermine longstanding pro-life policies in other ways as well,” the statement continued.
Congressman Pence agreed that the executive order can be overturned in the courts. “If a court is faced with statutory law versus an Executive Order,” the congressman told Fox News, “that’s not even a close call. An Executive Order has all the force of a resolution expressing the sense of Congress.”
“It seems to me,” Pence added, “that the president signing this Executive Order is a tacit admission that this bill does provide public funding for abortion.”
Richard Doerflinger, who is an associate director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, also believes that the executive order will hold little sway against the rule of law.
“Without seeing the details of the executive order, our conclusion has been that an executive order cannot override or change the central problems in the statute,” stated Doerflinger. “Those need a legislative fix.”
Perhaps the loudest critics of Rep. Stupak were from the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life women’s organization. The group planned to honor the congressman this Wednesday night at their Campaign for Life Gala, for his efforts to prevent funding of abortions in the health care package.
“We will no longer be doing so,” the group stated in a press release. “By accepting this deal from the most pro-abortion President in American history, Stupak has not only failed to stand strong for unborn children, but also for his constituents and pro-life voters across the country.”
“Any representative, including Rep. Stupak, who votes for this healthcare bill can no longer call themselves ‘pro-life’,” the statement continues. The Susan B. Anthony List also added that they “will work tirelessly” until November to defeat any House member voting for the health care legislation.
The five Democrat “holdouts” who stood with Stupak against federal funding of abortion in the bill, before the executive order was issued, were Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.), Rep. Steve Driehaus (Ohio), Rep. Alan Mollohan (W.V.), and Rep. Nick Rahall (W.V.). All five eventually voted with Stupak in favor of the bill.
Stupak’s Republican opponent in November’s Congressional race, Dr. Dan Benishek, enjoyed a boost of support on the social networking website Facebook. The candidate’s fan page “Benishek for Congress” has reportedly seen an overnight jump in membership—in the thousands. Currently, the group has 15,236 members, compared with Stupak’s fan page which has 2,090 members.
Conservatives are outraged at the representative’s vote for healthcare, but Stupak’s lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union (ACU) is a mere 21.1, including ratings of 12 and 16 for 2008 and 2009, respectively. Stupak has voted with his party on key legislation lately.
The congressman voted with his party for the “cap-and-trade” legislation, the “Stimulus” package, and now the health care bill.
However, Stupak has long been hailed as a pro-life congressman. National Right to Life gave Stupak approval ratings of no less than 90% for most of his career.
However, in the 110th Congress (2007-08), Stupak was rated 71% by the NRLC. His current pro-life rating for the 111th Congress stands at just 40%.