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Response: Stupak's Betrayal or Life-Saving Effort?


Jennifer Hartline

Catholic Online


Stupak's stunning reversal at the very last minute left the Pro-life community feeling as though we'd just been suckered.  Were his actions noble or disloyal?  Perhaps God only knows.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - I'd like to respond to Dr. Robert Stackpole's opinion piece "A Plea for Calm" concerning Congressman Bart Stupak and the criticism he's received since the health care vote, specifically my article, "We Stood with Stupak; He Didn't Stand for Life."

Dr. Stackpole thinks there's been an unfair rush to judgment, and the noble scenario I described and he expounded greatly on is in fact what probably happened, that Congressman Stupak gave his vote in exchange for the executive order because the bill was sure to pass without him, he couldn't stop it, and  the executive order was the last bit of leverage he had to use.  I envisioned that scenario myself and would love to believe that's what happened.

But in the hours preceding the vote, that isn't what Bart Stupak said.  He said he was "comfortable voting for this bill."  He looked pro-lifers all across America in the eye and said essentially, "I trust him.  This will be good enough and I'm changing my vote." He never once even alluded to the possibility that he didn't like the way this had gone down, that he'd agreed to this Executive Order in exchange for his vote because he felt there was no stopping the bill, and at least he was trying to take the sting out of the bee.

If that's what really happened, why not say that?  At least then, it might make some sense and indeed, he would be applauded for doing his level best to mitigate the harm.  Instead, in the blink of an eye, months and months of fierce debate and battle went down with a fizzle, and it made absolutely no sense to anyone counting on Stupak and the others to be the advocate for the unborn.  The same Congressman who'd said the week before that he was perfectly willing to accept responsibility for bringing down health care reform if the language of the bill wasn't changed was now voting for the bill though the perilous language was unchanged.

Suddenly, Rep. Stupak trusted the man who had said he wanted his first act as President to be signing the Freedom of Choice Act into law; the man who couldn't say when life begins because it was above his pay grade; the man who'd said he wouldn't want his daughters "punished with a baby."  Suddenly, we're supposed to trust this man to keep his word to us, rather than keep his word to the pro-choice money-machine to whom he is beholden?

President Obama is rightfully called the most pro-abortion President in our history.  Every move he's made regarding unborn children has been to expand and increase abortion in our nation and around the world, not lessen it as he claims to want.  He rescinded the Mexico City Polity on his third day in office and once more, United States taxpayers are funding the murder of foreign children.  He swore to Planned Parenthood that "women's reproductive health care services" (the secret code term for abortion) would absolutely be part of his health care reform.  I'm sorry, Congressman Stupak, but you'll have to forgive me if I'm unwilling to believe in the President's desire to protect the unborn.  Why must the pro-life community be gullible?  We need to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

I am not the least bit consoled by the possibility that the President could end up with political egg on his face if/when this executive order is challenged and defeated in court because Obama has already clearly shown that the only opinion that matters to him is his own.  I doubt very much the President is concerned about being in a political "pickle."  I believe he will do, at any given moment, whatever is necessary to achieve his own ends and impose his will, even if the majority of Americans disagree with him.

Dr. Stackpole lost me when he made this baffling statement:  "The health care legislation that was passed by the House "says" nothing at all about abortion."  "By issuing his executive order, the President did not attempt to "trump" statutory law or try to "amend" the provisions of the bill in any way, he simply clarified his understanding of a bill that he was signing into law on a matter on which the bill was silent, and in line with existing federal legislation."

Silent?  "Says" nothing at all?  If that's the case, then what in the world have we and Congressman Stupak been fighting for all these months?!?  The legislation is hardly silent on the matter!  In fact, the word abortion appears in the bill more than 40 times.  If indeed the bill was in line with existing federal legislation, then why were Stupak and the entire pro-life community insisting on the Stupak-Pitts amendment?  If nothing in the bill circumvented the Hyde amendment, then why would Stupak, dozens of other congressional representatives, the USCCB, Archbishop Chaput, Fr. Frank Pavone, and the entire pro-life community stand in opposition to the bill?  It was opposed because, quite simply, it allowed federal funds to be used for the killing of unborn children – something Dr. Stackpole himself wrote when postulating why Congressman Stupak agreed to the executive order.

Based on President Obama's words and actions to date, it is quite reasonable to see this executive order not as some simple "clarification" but as a strategic move to get what he wants now and also get what he wants later when the courts overturn his order.  That's not irrational suspicion; that's a reasonable deduction based on who Obama has revealed himself to be: a President committed to abortion "rights."  Again, let's not be gullible here.

Regarding Congressman Stupak's very troubling speech on the House floor during the Motion to Recommit, Dr. Stackpole remarked:  "All Pro-life Catholics recognize that the Democrat's record on supporting the life of the unborn is abysmal, to say the least.  But Congressman Stupak was evidently not referring to that.  He was evidently referring to his party's historic defense of the dignity of life at other stages of the human journey."

 I'm sorry, Dr., but that is not what Congressman Stupak said at all.  He said, "It is the Democrats who have stood up for the principle of no public funding for abortion.  It is the Democrats, through the President's executive order, who ensure the sanctity of life is protected."  As though he and his party had been valiantly fighting all by their lonesome with no help whatsoever from Republicans.  He then went on to insult his pro-life colleagues across the aisle by saying they were being disingenuous for wanting Stupak's own amendment added to the bill.  The Motion was to vote on his own amendment – which he'd said for months was critically necessary to stop the federal funding of abortions –  and he stood up and said such a motion was merely politicizing life, not protecting it.  He turned his former allies into enemies in one short speech.

As to "his party's historic defense of the dignity of life at other stages of the human journey", would that be his party's defense of Terri Schiavo's life at her stage of the human journey?  Or his party's defense of African-Americans during the Civil Rights era?  Oh, I know history has been rewritten to say that the Democrats are the true warriors of Civil Rights, but the facts say that Civil Rights legislation was favored by 96% of Republicans and opposed by nearly 80% of Democrats at the time.  And remember that Henry Hyde, the author of the Hyde amendment was a Republican.
To suggest that it is the Democrats who are suddenly the party of Life would be insanely laughable if the matter weren't so deadly.  The same party now led by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Joe Biden and President Obama – these are the folks who are concerned primarily with protecting life in the womb?  It was a preposterous statement by Stupak that night after the vote, and amounts to no defense of his bizarre acquiescence.

Finally, I have to disagree strongly with Dr. Stackpole's assertion that it was only the Democrats who offered up any "realistic proposals for reforms that could possibly lead to the extension of access to health insurance for the vast majority of those Americans who at present cannot afford such insurance."  The ideas proposed by Republicans went far beyond the TORT reform that Dr. Stackpole mentioned, including Health Savings Accounts, buying insurance across state lines, Universal Access Programs, small business health insurance plans, and of course, eliminating pre-existing conditions and preventing insurance companies from dropping someone once they become ill.  These ideas are clearly stated on their GOP Health Care site and make good sense practically and financially.  These ideas should have been brought to the table and examined thoroughly, but Obama's administration would have none of it.

The American people should have had the opportunity to learn more about all those proposals and evaluate whether they would have been a better alternative to Obama's massive, wildly expensive takeover of health care.  Dr. Stackpole praises the Social Security and Medicare programs while forgetting that both are bankrupt and bankrupting our country.  Both are run and managed by the federal government, which now has also taken over our health care system.  I don't need a crystal ball to tell me what 's going to happen next.  There was and is surely a far better way to ensure access to health care for those Americans who need it than what has just occurred.

There is no justification for the vile and slanderous garbage now being flung at Congressman Stupak.  The obscene and threatening phone calls are inexcusable and must stop immediately.  I heard a tape of a woman who called the Congressman to tell him there were many people around the country who wish him ill.  Such an attitude is deplorable and evil, and must be denounced.  Those making hateful threats like that are lunatics.

However, I believe the feelings of betrayal, confusion, anger, distrust, and sadness among those who supported Stupak all these months is justified.  His stunning reversal at the very last minute, his words and behavior surrounding the vote left the Pro-life community feeling as though we'd just been suckered.  All we know for sure now is that for the moment, the wall between our tax dollars and the abortion industry is a thin sheet of paper that may go up in smoke any day.  I'm not at all convinced a "No" vote would have been "doing nothing."  Those "No" votes would have made all the difference.  As to what Bart Stupak knew then, maybe only God knows now.


Jennifer Hartline is a grateful Catholic, an Army wife and mother of four precious children (one in Heaven).  She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online on topics of Catholic faith, family, Life and politics.  She is also a serious chocoholic.  Visit her at My Chocolate Heart.

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