'Whole life' Catholic Democrat argues Obama is pro-life

Former Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper speaks at faith council gathering 2 CNA500x320 US Catholic News 9 6 12 Former Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper speaks Sept. 5, 2012 at the Democractic National Convention's faith council gathering.

A former congresswoman known for being a prominent pro-life Democrat has advised fellow party members to tell Catholics that President Obama is a pro-life candidate.

"He is pro-life," said Kathy Dahlkemper, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2008 to 2010. "He actually signed the most pro-life piece of legislation that this country has ever seen."

Speaking at a Sept. 5 faith council gathering at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., the former congressional representative said that "pro-life is on the side of the Democrats."

"I want to talk about an issue that I think is going to be brought up when you talk to people of faith, particularly Catholics, and this is the issue of life," she told attendees.

Dahlkemper explained that she calls herself "a whole life Democrat," because as a Catholic, she believes in caring for people "from conception to natural death."

She said that she "ran for Congress as a person of faith" and that her concern for her country was rooted in "the social justice that I had learned from a young child as a Catholic."

"I voted for the Affordable Care Act because in my opinion it is the most pro-life piece of legislation that we've ever passed in this country," Dahlkemper stated.

"This bill is going to take care of women's health," she said, pointing to provisions to protect the coverage of pregnant women and allow children to stay on their parents' insurance policies until age 26.

So when people criticize Obama for his record on abortion, she continued, "you can turn on them and say, 'He is pro-life.'"

She also encouraged them to respond to criticism over the president's stance on life issues by arguing that abortion will "skyrocket under the Republican plan" as a result of proposed cuts to Medicaid.

Republican leaders have maintained that their plan will not harm the poor but will instead send Medicaid and other programs back to the states, where they can be run more efficiently and with less fraud.

Absent from Dahlkemper's comments was any mention of the Affordable Care Act's abortion funding provisions and a mandate issued under its authority to require employers to offer health care plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs free of charge.

Religious leaders including the U.S. Catholic bishops have expressed alarm at the mandate, warning that it threatens the religious freedom of employers who object to its demands.

The mandate was recently criticized by former Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak, who played a critical role in helping to pass the Affordable Care Act, delivering key votes only after striking a deal in which President Obama issued an executive order to ban federal funding of abortion in the law.

At a Sept. 4 panel discussion hosted by Democrats for Life of America, Stupak said that the order has not been upheld.

"To tell you the truth, I'm perplexed and disappointed, having negotiated the executive order with the president," he said. "Not only does that HHS mandate violate the executive order, it also violates statutory law."

While Dahlkemper is a member of the board of directors for Democrats for Life of America, which has opposed the mandate, she did not discuss this aspect of the health care law in her talk.

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Rather, she emphasized that "(h)ealth care is a right" and focused on her belief that God wanted her to be in Congress because she "was one of the people who really helped push the bill over the finish line in the end."

When talking to people in the weeks leading up to election, she stressed, "make sure they understand what the president did when he signed that bill into law for all Americans."

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