Just days before a group of House Democratic leaders strode across the Capitol plaza to an alleged cascade of taunts at the climax of the health care debate, Rep. Bart Stupak and his wife were barraged with profane phone calls at their home in Menominee, Michigan. The nine-term Stupak was sautéed in liberal hatred because of his partnership with Pennsylvania’s Joe Pitts in a comprehensive amendment to prevent government subsidies for abortion in his party’s health care reform bill.
As everyone now knows, by Sunday, March 21, the “living hell” of pressure to which Stupak was subjected finally got to him. Flayed and fried by the angry Left, Bart Stupak caved on the pro-life amendment he had stood by for months. First, on the Friday before the final vote on the House floor, he severed contact with groups like ours. On Saturday rumors emerged that he was working with the Obama White House on an executive order that purported to enforce the terms of his amendment.
Then came Sunday afternoon’s climactic House vote and there was Stupak, live on all the networks, standing alongside a half-dozen other pro-life Democratic hold-outs in the House press gallery, announcing their retreat. I sat on the steps of the Rayburn House Office Building and listened over a cell phone to the press conference where our Democratic champion handed us the most spectacular defeat since Roe.
If only it were a political defeat. Instead, it was a defeat in the battle to save the lives of untold numbers of unborn children, the hearts of their anxious and conflicted mothers, and the consciences of taxpayers who deserve something better than what ObamaCare will deliver.
Before the night was over, there was worse. In one final desperate maneuver, the House Republican leadership offered a motion to recommit Speaker Pelosi’s health care bill to committee with an instruction to include the original Stupak-Pitts language. And there on the floor of the House stood Stupak himself pleading for the defeat of his own amendment and praising his fellow Democrats as the real champions for limits on federal funding of abortion.
Over the past three months, I’ve been asked countless times why my organization (and many others besides) trusted Bart Stupak. It’s a fair question. More than two decades in the abortion wars in the nation’s capital have taught me to be wary, and to be realistic about the tense political forces at work on the life issues in both parties.