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The Ascent of Boehner

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
When he finally voted for President Obama's health-care bill, "pro-life" Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., disappointed a lot of people, folks who believed that he really did want to ensure that the federal government wouldn't compel taxpayer funding of abortion. A number of pro-life groups' plans to honor Stupak for his initial efforts against the bill were canceled. One of these groups ought to, before long, turn around and give a defender-of-life award to the man who could be the next speaker of the House of Representatives, House minority leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

I spend a fair amount of time among conservatives and pro-life activists. In their company, Boehner's name rarely comes up. For some it's a distrust of those in power that keeps them from embracing him. For some it's his style, his look and feel. But the fact of the matter is that Boehner managed to hold his caucus together on the health-care vote, and on other matters, he's kept the pro-choice crowd and its cronies on the ruling left in check -- as much as a minority leader can. He's also got a solid record of doing all kinds of things that are popular right now; for example, he's never taken an earmark in his life.

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In a speech to a conservative audience this winter, Boehner insisted that Republicans in the House wouldn't "bend on ... the issue of the sanctity of life." He explained: "In November, Republican lawmakers joined with some Democrat lawmakers to stop them from using any federal taxpayer funds ... to provide for abortions in America. ... We got some flak for working with the other side." But this is what you call principled leadership. Even though he hated the bill, if it were going to pass, he wanted taxpayer funding of abortion to be no part of it. After Stupak's abortion-protection language was included in the House bill before its passage last year, Boehner went to the House floor three times and asked Democratic committee chairmen Charlie Rangel, Henry Waxman, and George Miller to pledge to support it when the time came for conference negotiations with the Senate. Because abortion was a priority of theirs, they would not. (Too bad that Stupak, wanting the bill to pass, didn't feel as strongly about the sanctity of the unborn when his leadership moment arrived.) Recalling what went down late last year, Boehner said: "When it comes to protecting the unborn, we'll take the votes wherever we can get them ... We did the right thing for the right reasons. And we're showing ... the American people that there's a clear difference between the two parties."

The difference became abundantly clear one night in March when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, seemingly unsure if she had the votes for the president's health-care bill, called Stupak in and asked him what he needed to support the bill. He reportedly still wanted measures in the bill that would prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion and protect the consciences of medical personnel opposed to abortion. The "pro-choice" caucus in the House -- led by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., a radical feminist leader in the party of death -- would have none of it.

Boehner, on the other hand, not only did his job and kept to his word, but also confronted the president of the United States and other leaders of the Democratic Party who consistently lied about the abortion content in the legislation they've now passed. At the White House summit on health care, Boehner said: "For 30 years, we've had a federal law that says that we're not going to have taxpayer funding of abortions. We've had this debate in the House ... And the House upheld the language we have had in law for 30 years, that there will be no taxpayer funding of abortions. This bill that we have before us ... for the first time in 30 years allows for the taxpayer funding of abortions."

He went on to continue to make the case that he and his Republican colleagues had consistently made: Let's start again. Let's work together, for real. Let's make sure there's no abortion in this bill.

Well, that didn't happen. But Boehner put up a fight. And if the Democrats lose seats, as expected, in November, he may actually be able to provide a much more powerful opposition to the White House. He's been a consistent leader for life, when it has truly counted. There's every indication he will continue his fight. Instead of complaining that Republicans don't talk more about the issue, those who believe that the sanctity of unborn human life is a central human-rights issue of our day should thank John Boehner -- who has a zero rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, an arm of the abortion industry, and a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee. In the face of all the powerful figures and influences arrayed against Boehner and a culture of life, it's the right thing to do.

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