Stupak Hits Historic Low

There have been few more disgraceful, even pathetic, moments in politics than the speech by Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.) on the floor of the House of Representatives last night in which he called a Republican motion to recommit "disingenuous". 

The motion, in effect a call to send the healthcare "reform" bill back to the House in order to add the original "Stupak Amendment" anti-abortion language to the bill to ensure that Obamacare would not provide federal funding of abortion, was what Stupak had fought to achieve for months.

Only hours earlier he had caved in, accepting in return for his vote and those of other so-called pro-life Democrats who were following him a promise of an Executive Order from President Obama promising to implement Obamacare in a way which did not permit government money to fund abortion.

Before going further, I should make clear that I am pro-choice but against government funding of abortion. I have never been a pro-life crusader although I do strongly object to the use of taxpayer money for something that many people consider to be murder. My problem with Stupak is not the particulars of the principle that he claimed to hold dear but the fact that he claimed it.

Bart Stupak proved that he was at best a paper tiger, a politician playing politics looking for even the thinnest veneer of political cover to allow him to cave in on his "principled" position. No doubt he was threatened by Nancy Pelosi and felt immeasurable political pressure. He should have just said so.

Instead, he forever destroyed his own reputation for principle and—precisely the opposite of what he claimed last night—proved that a pro-life Democrat is a Democrat first and pro-life second … or maybe third or fourth. By extension, and reinforced with the participation of so many "Blue Dog" Democrats in the assault on our healthcare system and our federal budget, he proved that any Democrat who attempts to modify that party label with a preceding adjective such as "pro-life" or "fiscally conservative" is playing voters for fools.

Stupak knows that an Executive Order cannot trump the text of a federal law. And the case is very strong that the Senate bill that will be signed into law by President Obama does allow, perhaps demand, federal funding for abortion and for clinics that provide abortion services. Furthermore, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision has been interpreted to mean that any federal healthcare program that does not exclude abortion funding in the text of its enacting legislation must allow such funding.

In other words, Barack Obama’s Executive Order will not survive the first court challenge against it … a challenge likely to be seen within weeks if not days of its being signed. It is simply worthless. And Stupak had to know that.

On occasion, pro-life activists call those who disagree with them “pro-death.” You might imagine that I’ve objected to this characterization and that as someone focused on liberty, I care greatly about the “choice” part of pro-choice. But if there were ever a politician who could be accurately called “pro-death”, it is Barack Obama. While in the Illinois State Senate, Barack Obama voted against a bill which would have required that a hospital provide medical treatment to babies born alive following a botched abortion. The bill came up after a nurse, Jill Stanek, said she held an infant born alive after an attempted abortion for 45 minutes in a closet until it died because the hospital refused to care for it. While there are questions over whether Stanek was holding a viable infant or a fetus which was so pre-term that it had no chance of survival, the bill itself should have been a slam dunk, even for pro-choice activists. A similar law to protect live-born babies passed the federal Congress in 2002 with bipartisan support but Barack Obama continued to oppose it in Illinois.

And this is the man that the Bart Stupak wants to rely on to protect his vaunted pro-life principles? Puhleeeze. Planned Parenthood and NARAL’s leaders must have been laughing out loud when they heard Stupak was switching even as they cry crocodile tears today over an Executive Order which they know won’t stand the test of the legal challenge their own lawyers are formulating. Pro-choice Democrats in the House weren’t fooled by the Stupak Swindle either: Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley who had said “If choice is out, so am I” voted for Obamacare after the agreement with Stupak was made—and understood to be as meaningless as it is.

Not only did Bart Stupak cave in — perhaps an insult by comparison to people who really did just cave in — but he also betrayed the many members of Congress who had seen him as a principled leader on an important issue. When the time came for a motion to put Stupak’s language in a position where it might have some force, Mr. Principled Democrat not only opposed it, he attacked those who supported it. It is certainly true that part of the reason for the Motion to Recommit was a play to kill Obamacare entirely. It is equally true that some of the motivation to kill it came from Republicans and Democrats who know that it will use taxpayer money to fund abortion regardless of an empty promise by a radical President. 

It should be called the Stupak Swindle not just because it permitted Obamacare to pass, but also because of the blatant and utter abandoning of principle and the scorn he then heaped upon those who stood true to principle, perhaps the lowest political moment of the lowest political season of my lifetime.