.- Responding to claims that pro-life groups opportunistically used pro-life concerns to stop the recent health care reform billâs passage, the editors of Public Discourse have defended the pro-lifersâ strategy as a non-partisan and âindependentâ response to the âhollownessâ of the legislationâs treatment of abortion funding.
In comments made after the passage of the health care reform law, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) accused the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) of âhypocrisyâ and of âjust using the life issue to try to bring down health care reform.â
The editors of the lay Catholic magazine Commonweal were similarly critical, suggesting that pro-life groups including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) were âlobbying groups hoping to stop Obamacare.â
Depicting Stupak as someone resisting âRepublican efforts to sabotage health care reform,â the Commonweal bloggers claimed that Americans United for Life (AUL) had lost its credibility as a non-partisan pro-life organization.
The editors of the online journal Public Discourse replied to these charges in an April 28 essay, criticizing the âinsinuationâ that concern about the billâs expansion of abortion was âa mere pretext.â
According to the journal's editors, the legislative picture was much less clear than the Commonweal editors depicted it.
The Stupak Amendment, the Discourse's editors wrote, found âskepticism or outright oppositionâ from many conservatives, who thought it would help the bill pass. One leading blogger dismissed it as just a way for conservative Democrats to âsave face.â
For their part, pro-life groups âthreatened to revoke the pro-life credentialsâ of any Republican voting against the amendment, Public Discourse said.
âThis legislative arm-twisting effectively ensured the passage of the bill, and it did so with the votes of many who had adamantly opposed it,â the editors continued. âIf pro-life organizations hadnât forced GOP members to make this pro-life, pro-reform vote, there would likely be no health care bill today. Congressman Stupak and the editors of Commonweal ought to pause for a moment to give that fact some consideration.â
After the Stupak Amendment passed the U.S. House, Republican strategists Erick Erickson and Patrick Ruffini said conservatives should âblame National Right to Lifeâ for the passage of health care. Erickson also accused NRLC of undercutting conservatives to raise money, while the Wall Street Journal editorial board said Stupak had âplayed pro-lifers like a Stradivarius.â
In another show of independence, Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the Susan B. Anthony List, published an editorial threatening support for pro-life Democrats if Republicans fell short on abortion.
The editors of Public Discourse noted that the USCCB touted the superiority of the House bill over the Senate bill on all criteria, including pro-life concerns.
âClearly, the pro-life organizationsâ strategy was independent of a Democratic or Republican agenda. Little surprise, then, that it alienated partisans on both sidesâthe partisans at Commonweal included,â they wrote.
Public Discourse accused Commonweal of partisanship in their âpersistent misrepresentationâ of President Obamaâs executive order on abortion funding, the funding of Community Health Centers, and the original Senate compromise language on insurance funding.
Commonwealâs praise for the executive order, they said, ignored court precedent defining Medicaid as including abortion services unless statutory law explicitly forbids it.
âThe statutory requirement prevails over the executive order,â the Public Discourse editors said, noting the need for the language of the pro-life Hyde Amendment.
âThe new legislation did not extend the Hyde Amendment to new funding streams,â they continued. âThe House bill would have done that; the Senate bill did not. No wonder Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood made no real effort to resist the executive order. The order was, as she put it, merely âsymbolic.ââ
A gap in the health care funding restrictions also will result in funding for abortions at Community Health Care Centers, they warned. Further, the new health care law lacks a âcritically importantâ clause of the Hyde Amendment which bars funding for health plans that include elective abortions.
âOver the course of the health care debate, the major pro-life groups and the Catholic bishops faithfully adhered to the cause of life. They recognized the hollowness of Obamaâs executive order, anticipated the threat posed by funding of Community Health Centers, and saw through an insurance funding scheme that claims to honor the Hyde Amendmentâs principle while gutting its policy and violating its spirit.â
These actions sometimes advanced or retarded health care, but their steadfastness in their principles âdeserves praise,â the Public Discourse editors concluded.