J'accuse, Bart Stupak!
It seems the Michigan Democrat from Menominee -- held up in recent weeks as a paragon of virtue for his opposition to the health care overhaul bill passed Sunday evening -- never had any intention of going the distance.
Stupak bowed to pressure from all quarters Democrat -- the White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, fellow House colleagues, even a group of nuns -- and accepted the promise of a toothless executive order stating that no federal funds apportioned in the bill will go toward abortions.
Whether or not abortions will be funded is still debatable. What’s inarguable is the fact that Obama’s executive order does absolutely nothing to ensure such an outcome -- despite Stupak’s claim that he held out for language in the document that was “bulletproof.”
One thing not bulletproof is Stupak’s reputation -- and possibly his previous iron grip on his First Congressional District seat.
Despite ridiculous claims by The Detroit News that Stupak had “held firm” and that he “got what he wanted,” nothing could be further from the truth -- unless The News meant that Stupak had succeeded in elevating his previously anonymous national profile.
Many opponents of the bill -- even those without a moral stake in the abortion imbroglio -- had rallied around Stupak and his now-eviscerated “Gang of 12.” The abortion issue had become only the most visible objection among many that conservatives saw as rendering the bill not only unpalatable but downright poisonous.
Stupak’s stance at the moral vanguard of opposition to the reform package deteriorated quickly over the weekend. His insistence that he and his cohorts would not vote “Yes” on the bill without the so-called “Stupak amendment” inserted into the House version of the bill gave way to political realities. But Stupak's language could not be used since funding issues required a 60-vote supermajority for the wording to be approved by the Senate -- and that wasn’t going to happen.
So Stupak backed off and disingenuously insisted on a “guarantee” -- which eventually took the form of the executive order guaranteeing adherence to Hyde Amendment, which prohibits use of federal funds for abortions. But Stupak knows that the order is impotent -- the Hyde amendment does not, and will not, apply to this bill, since it applies only to the annual HHS appropriations bill.
In reality, Stupak never intended to hold up passage of the bill, and said so last year at a meeting in Cheboygan (see video here). He said then that, if his proposed amendment was voted down in the House, he still would vote for the health care bill.
“Would I vote against the health care bill if I had a chance to vote my conscience on it? I probably would not,” Stupak said. “I’d probably still vote for the health care bill at the end of the day.”
Given an opportunity by an audience member to clarify that statement, Stupak reiterated his intention to vote in favor of a bill that included abortion funding.
Lack of wording prohibiting abortion funding “doesn’t mean I vote against the whole bill,” Stupak admitted. “If I like everything in the bill, except they have public funding for abortion . . . would I vote for health care? Yes, I still could.”
So it appears that Stupak is a man of his word -- if that word was uttered last year.
Stupak’s recent dog-and-pony show was nothing more than a manufactured morality play enacted for the benefit of his conservative congressional constituents. He accumulated political capital as the poseur of a courageous group of anti-abortion ideologues who would accept no form of legal funding for abortion. But when moral fortitude came face to face with political expedience, guess which imposter was unmasked?
If Rep. Stupak and other pro-life Democrats were unsatisfied with the protections against taxpayer funding of abortions included in the Senate bill -- as they claimed to be for weeks -- there is nothing in the text of the executive order that should have changed their minds. Even groups such as the National Abortion Federation (“Abortion is an integral part of reproductive health care,” is the first sentence on its Web site), while they despise the Hyde Amendment, acknowledge the Amendment’s flaws in completely prohibiting federal funding of abortions.
Stupak’s retreat is perhaps minor in the entire scheme of the ramifications of the newly minted bill. The total cost of the package, the debt it foists upon Americans present and future, and the intrusiveness on doctors and their patients, will be the real triggers of the chaos to ensue over coming decade.
But it would have been nice to see a politician stick to his guns on what he claimed was an ethically non-negotiable issue.
“Hyde Amendment Not Sufficient to Stop Abortion Funding in Health Care Measures” -- Steven Ertelt
“The Hyde amendment wouldn’t apply to this bill” -- Yuval Levin, National Review