At the Susan B. Anthony List, we have a clear mission: to advance pro-life women as political leaders and to elect and preserve pro-life candidates, Republicans and Democrats alike, who will not subordinate the sanctity of life to any other issue, whether that issue is health care reform, bankruptcy reform or deficit reductions.
On November 2, we illustrated our determination to pursue that mission, even when there is great personal and emotional regret in doing so. On Election Night, our organization celebrated its success in 15 of the 20 races where we targeted Democratic incumbents who stood with us up to the moment of decision last March, then turned and subordinated the Life issue to the cause of passing Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama’s massive health care bill.
But there are always mixed feelings at such moments. The need to demonstrate that votes have consequences is only met when elections have consequences. For me, the consequences have included the loss of personal alliances that date to my first years in Washington. I served as the staff director of the nonpartisan House Pro-Life Caucus at the time it was chaired by Rep. Chris Smith, Republican of New Jersey, and Alan Mollohan, Democrat of West Virginia.
In that role, I came to know the veteran pro-life leaders of both parties and to understand, even as we often fought against, the enormous pressures they could be put under as their pro-life convictions forced them to resist their own leadership on issues like omnibus spending bills. In the late 1990s, it was leading Republicans who put enormous pressure on pro-life Members to drop their objections to a massive bankruptcy reform bill they favored. But Chuck Schumer, New York’s junior senator, had tacked on an amendment in the Senate that would have excluded just one group of Americans – peaceful pro-life demonstrators – from the bill’s protections for individuals.
It was an invidiously discriminatory law, but pro-life leaders demanded that the Republican leaders stand up to Schumer, and to the pressure of the nation’s legal elite, even if it meant putting the long-negotiated bill at risk. Ultimately, we prevailed, with much aggravation to some of our Republican friends, and the Schumer amendment was dropped.
Flash forward to the 111th Congress, where the tables were turned. There were Bart Stupak, whom I had come to know and admire very much, and Alan Mollohan, whom I cherished personally and for whom I had worked, leading the effort to ensure that a comprehensive pro-life funding standard would be applied to ObamaCare. These men were under enormous pressure to fold to the Speaker’s and the White House’s demands.
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