Updated: Health Care Bill: Did Bart Stupak 'Limit the Harm'?

 

Deacon Keith Fournier

 
  3/21/2010
 
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – Update2:  The Susan B. Anthony List was to honor Congressman Bart Stupak with an award for his Pro-Life stand. They have now rescinded the award with these words: "This Wednesday night is our third annual Campaign for Life Gala, where we were planning to honor Congressman Stupak for his efforts to keep abortion- funding out of health care reform-we will no longer be doing so. By accepting this deal from the most pro- abortion President in American history, Stupak has not only failed to stand strong for unborn children, but also for his constituents and pro-life voters across the country."

Update1: Since writing this article many friends I greatly respect have written to tell me they believe that the promised Presidential Executive Order is "worthless". That may be the case. My purpose was to express my appreciation for the effort of Bart Stupak - even though I disgree with him. Let me be clear, I oppose this legislation. I have made that clear from the beginning. I hope the Congressman was trying to limit the harm in accordance with the provisions I cited below from the "Gospel of Life." (Deacon Keith Fournier)

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Washington and the Nation were transfixed on the Press Conference held at 4:00 pm, Sunday March 21, 2010, called by Congressman Bart Stupak, the Pro-Life Democratic Congressman from Michigan. He appeared to be the last hurdle to the passage of the Senate Version of the Health Care Bill.

There is no doubt that he stood heroically, refusing to compromise on the fact, confirmed by medical science and written on every human heart through the Natural Moral Law, that the child in the womb is one of us, our first neighbor, and that killing him or her by "choice" must never be considered "Health Care".

I have written extensively on this subject. I well understand the other strong objections to this legislation. I share many of them. For example, whether handing over 1/6th of the economy to the Federal Government violates the Social ordering principle of subsidiarity? I personally believe that it is bad public policy and legislation on many other fronts.

However, what  seemed clear throughout this historic debate was that Congressman Bart Stupak was a faithful Catholic and a faithful Pro-Life DEMOCRATIC Congressman who refused to compromise on the first priniciples. He has always supported the Health Care Reform package. He is, after all, a Democrat. He simply refused to compromise on the fundamental human rights issue of our age, the Right to Life. For that, he should be honored and thanked by Pro-Life people.

I was not surprised when he made his announcement. He was surrounded by other Pro-Life Democrats who had made the same decision with him. He spoke of the "agreement we have been able to reach" with the President. That agreement entails the issuing of what he called an "extensive" Executive order by the President immediately upon the passage of this legislation.

He seems to honestly believe that with this Executive Order, the current Hyde Amendment language will be protected in the law. He is confident that this Executive Order will ensure that the fatal flaw with this legislation, clearly set forth by the US Bishops, which undermined the fundamental Human Right to Life, will be cured. As a Constitutional lawyer, I strongly doubt it. Though I live in Virginia, I am, to use the old adage "from Missouri", show me! I know, some will even resent that I am writing this piece! Executive orders can be rescinded and have questionable value in correcting statutory law.

I know that many are disappointed in Stupak's decision. I am. I do not agree with this legislation for many important procedural, constitutional and substantive reasons. However, the first and fundamental reason I opposed it was that it DID indeed open up Federal funds for the killing of innocent children. If it did not, why is the President of the United States signing an Executive Order to allegedly cure the Bill? So, the Catholic groups who sold out the Right to Life before this Executive Order should be exposed for what they truly are.

I know there are serious procedural problems with how this legislation was handled. I know there are serious substantive problems with the legislation on many other fronts. However, I am writing this opinion piece to encourage our readers to pray for him - and for his family.
 
I wanted to get out in front on this story before others in the community of which I am a part, the unqualifiedly Pro-Life community, begin to consider what he has done in changing his vote against this Bill to a vote in favor and bringing other Pro-Life Democrats along with him. I am sure he will receive a "mixed" response to say the least. I disagree with his decision. However, there is more to be considered.

In "The Gospel of Life", (Evangelium Vitae) the Encyclical Letter written by the Venerable Pope John Paul II which affirmed the unbroken teaching of the Sacred Scripture and the Tradition of the Christian Church for over two thousand years that every procured abortion is always and everywhere intrinsically evil, we read these words:

"73. Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

… In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to "take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it".

"A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent.

"It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favoring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter.

"In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects."

So, I ask, has Congressman Bart Stupak at least "limited the harm" done by this Legislation? Has he "lessened its negative consequences"? Has he tried to act as a faithful Catholic Christian in public life? If so he should be commended. Even if, like me, you disagree with his ultimate decision. Was that the Congressman's intention? 

Oh, I know that some will be disappointed in my suggesting this assessment. However, anyone who has read me over many years knows that I have long insisted that "Catholic is the Noun". In other words, I insist that, authentically understood, Catholic Social thought needs to be the foundation for our participation in public policy efforts and political action.

We Catholics must not first be "conservatives", "liberals", neo-conservatives", "progressives" .... or any other of those limiting political labels. We are Catholic Christians first, last and all in between. The true Social teaching of the Catholic Church has too often been co-opted by both the left and the right.It needs to be liberated from these limitations and offered as the path to prevent the collapse of Western Civilization.

I have also said for many years that I would welcome a United States of America where both major political parties began with the fundamental truth - the very heart of any authentic vision of Social Justice - the first and foundational principle -  the recognition that every human life, from conception to natural death, has human dignity. There simply IS a fundamental Human Right to Life and abortion is not a "right"-  it is a wrong - no matter what the US Supreme Court said in those horrid opinions in Roe and Doe.

Make no mistake; I disagree with this flawed Health Care legislation for many reasons.However, I applaud a consistent Democrat, one who hears the cry of all the poor!. One like Bart Stupak, who has not sold his soul at the altar of Planned Parenthood and its evil effort to call the killing of children a "right" or a proper and moral "choice". They betray everything this Nation stands for.

Congressman Bart Stupak claims to care about the poor, including those whom Mother Teresa called the "poorest of the poor", children in the womb. He may be the heir to the vacant seat left by the last late, great, Pro-Life Democrat, the former Governor Bob Casey. My apologies to his son, but I must be honest.Your Dad was the last Democrat I could support. I hasten to add, I am no great fan of many Republicans either.

Now, let the real debate over public policy and the future of this great Nation truly begin. The 2010 elections are now underway. Even more importantly, the 2012 Presidential race has begun in earnest. We need a Pro-Life, Pro-Marriage and Family, Pro-Poor and Pro-Freedom candidate. I will do everything I can to assist him or her to run for the nomination and win the Presidency. America is at a crossroads. 

In the interim, did Congressman Bart Stupak try to "lessen the harm" of this poor legislation? Only  time- and his future actions - will tell.