Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) has defended President Obama’s executive order intended to bar taxpayer dollars from funding abortion under the health care reform legislation signed yesterday.
According to a Wednesday statement from Stupak’s office, the executive order says that the legislation “maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges.”
Stupak said the order has “the full force and effect of law” and makes “very clear” that current law barring funding of abortion applies to the new health care legislation.
“I have said from the start that my goal was to see health care pass while maintaining the principle of the sanctity of life. The president’s Executive Order upholds this principle that federal funds will not be used to subsidize abortion coverage,” Stupak claimed.
Citing previous important presidential orders, Stupak listed President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and President George W. Bush’s 2007 executive order restricting embryonic stem cell research.
The latter executive order, according to Stupak, “followed the principle of the sanctity of life, and was applauded and welcomed by the pro-life community.”
“That these same people would now claim President Obama’s Executive Order maintaining that same principle is not worth the paper it is written on is disingenuous,” he said, questioning why an order signed by President Bush is “applauded” but one signed by President Obama is “condemned.”
The Congressman reported that during the debate on health care legislation he had engaged in a colloquy with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman to “make clear and place on the record” that Congress intends the Hyde provisions, combined with the executive order, to ensure there is no public funding for abortion.
“This is an excellent Executive Order and a strong compliment to the health care reform legislation that was signed into law by President Obama Tuesday afternoon. I and other pro-life Democrats are pleased that we were able to uphold this important principle and vote for a health care bill that is pro-life at every stage of life.”
Stupak’s comments were released in response to what his office called “misinformation” about the executive order.
Many pro-life leaders have warned that the executive order will not be effective in restricting abortion funding or remedying other flawed aspects of the bill.
“The president cannot amend a bill by issuing an order, and the federal courts will enforce what the law says,” the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) commented on Sunday.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on Tuesday praised the “admirable intention” of the pending executive order, but said the fact such an order is necessary “points to deficiencies in the statute itself.”
“We do not understand how an Executive Order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions,” the statement said.
Rep. Stupak himself expressed a preference for statutory language in his Sunday afternoon press conference which announced the promised executive order and his support for the health care reform bill.
He also said if his pro-life coalition missed something in the bill, “we’re coming back with legislative fixes.”
The bishops have said they believe that new legislation will “almost certainly be required” to address “deficiencies” such as a lack of strong pro-life conscience protections and of statutory restrictions on abortion funding.
President Obama signed the executive order on Wednesday afternoon with Rep. Stupak and other lawmakers in attendance.