Stupak’s health care compromise was not a victory, Catholic leader argues


Despite initially withstanding “tremendous pressure” to abandon his pro-life demands on health care reform, Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) decision to accept a “meaningless” executive order on abortion was a “drastic” error that will further abortion, the vice president of Catholic Advocate has said.

Matt Smith, the vice president of Catholic Advocate, wrote in an essay at the group’s website that his organization and other pro-life groups had praised the Congressman for his “stalwart defense of life” during the health care debate.

“Congressman Stupak roared like a lion in the savage jungle of Capitol Hill. He handled tremendous pressure from his own caucus and countless rumors and speculation about compromises and deals,” Smith said.

However, Rep. Stupak’s endorsement of a “meaningless” executive order caused “disappointment and disbelief” among many pro-lifers.

Rep. Stupak has justified his decision by noting precedents for the order, such as President George W. Bush’s order restricting embryonic stem cell research.

To this, Smith said that Bush’s order was “narrowly focused” to actions by the executive branch of the U.S. government. Orders which intrude upon legislative action are struck down by the courts, Smith continued, noting that one such order was struck down the same week that President Obama's executive order on abortion funding was signed.

“The most important casualties from the fights on Capitol Hill over abortion funding in the health care bill were the unborn,” he wrote, also calling the executive order “one of the worst compromises against life in the history of the pro-life cause.”

Turning to Rep. Stupak’s announcement that he would retire, Smith suggested it was a sign Stupak’s compromise was not a victory.

“Most people, when they come out victorious after a long hard personal fight, usually catch their breath and return invigorated by their victory. It is only when you have truly lost a challenge that you have trouble finding your motivation, and worse yet, if you are the one responsible for the loss.”

“He consistently stood for the cause of life, but when it came to the biggest battle in years, could not go the distance,” continued Smith. “Congressman Stupak unsuccessfully tried to have it both ways on health care. He made a drastic error in judgment that will ultimately further abortion in the United States.”

Though he wished the Congressman well, he said people are remembered for how they depart.

“Many pro-life activists feel Congressman Stupak quit on them, so it is only fitting he retire from the arena if he has lost his heart for the battles.”

For his part, Rep. Stupak has claimed the executive order was an “ironclad commitment” that applied Hyde Amendment restrictions on abortion funding to the health care reform bill funds and to the federally subsidized insurance exchanges.

He told CNA in a March 25 interview that while he would have preferred statutory language, there were not enough votes in the Senate. He also claimed that Republican intransigence on procedural rules blocked his amendment from being reconsidered.

According to the Congressman, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) already had enough votes to pass the bill but his pro-life Democrat coalition’s support allowed at-risk Congressmen to vote against the controversial bill.

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