This time last week, Representative Bart Stupak (D – Michigan) was the hero of social conservatives who were anxious to secure binding language banning federal funding of abortion in the health care legislation. Stupak’s resolve in the face of immense party pressure was commendable – a testament to his unwavering commitment to protecting the unborn despite the political risks. We at the Center for a Just Society shared in Rep. Stupak’s disappointment with those in his party who promoted federally-funded abortion as a means of cutting health care costs. Not surprisingly, Rep. Stupak’s 11th-hour change of heart and subsequent vote for the Senate’s health care reform legislation has left many puzzled and angry.
Why, after months of outspoken opposition to the bill, did Mr. Stupak yield? It certainly wasn’t because Nancy Pelosi and her allies finally decided to abandon their career-long commitment to dismantling each and every legal and cultural impediment to abortion-on-demand. As it happens, Rep. Stupak ended up surrendering his opposition in exchange for President Obama’s pledge to prevent federal funding of abortion via Executive Order.
At first hearing, this news might seem heartening to people concerned about protecting unborn children. An executive order sounds pretty important, after all, and the President made this pledge publicly. When pressed to justify this course of action, Rep. Stupak explained that it was the only way to avoid killing health care reform entirely, something he wasn’t prepared to do:
“The only option you had was leave the Senate language or strengthen it to prevent abortions under an executive order – that’s what we did, we stayed true to those principles – or vote no... So you kill the bill and we do not have health care... I’ve always said I want to see health care for the nation.”
There are two glaring problem with Rep. Stupak’s rationale. First, the odds that Mr. Obama – who scored a 100% rating from NARAL three years in a row – will honor a pledge to block federal funds for abortion are slim, and second, even if he allows the Executive Order to remain in place, it is a meaningless measure that does not have the power to prevent tax dollars being used to finance elective abortions.