Monday, March 22, 2010

House approves health-care bill and aborts Democrats for Life

Washington Post reports on the House passage of the Senate health-care bill.  Just as abortion dismembers an intact body and splits mother from child, so it continues to divide and polarize our body politic. Expect conservatives to make the argument that "pro-life democrat" is a contradiction in terms and expect most pro-life people to believe it.  Fewer Democrats will believe that abortion is an issue they will sacrifice for or win on. Remember it was just two elections ago that Democrats won a few House seats with new pro-life candidates. It was a little glimmer of promise since it's very difficult to pass major social legislation if it's supported by only one party. What little momentum may have started in 2004 will likely peter out and pro-life Democrats will be a thing of the past giving Republicans one-party control of the pro-life movement.

Pro-lifers may well become to Republicans what African-Americans are to Democrats. You can use 'em, run 'em, party with 'em but you can never give 'em what they really want. Keep them hanging on the line always living in hope.  Where do they have to go after all? Pro-lifers aren't going to be jumping to the Democrats and African-Americans have proven that there remain so few of them among Republicans that they are almost always guaranteed a speaking berth at Republican gatherings and conventions.

Protecting the unborn needs to be a bi-partisan issue. Major social legislation needs support from both sides of the aisle or it gets bloody, gridlocked and ultimately unresolved. We've had bi-partisan pro-life victories in the past.
For example, banning partial birth abortion legislation had been vetoed twice by President Clinton. Then in 2003 its time had come. In the House, the final legislation was supported by 218 Republicans and 63 Democrats. It was opposed by 4 Republicans, 137 Democrats, and 1 independent. Twelve members were absent, 7 Republicans and 5 Democrats. In the Senate the bill was supported by 47 Republicans and 17 Democrats. It was opposed by 3 Republicans, 30 Democrats, and 1 independent. Two Senators were absent, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tx.), a supporter of the bill, and John Edwards (D-NC), an opponent of the bill. It was truly a pro-life victory with support from both parties.

Or consider the Hyde Amendment which is a rider attached to the Appropriations Bill each year barring HHS funds from being used for abortions. It primarily effects Medicaid funding for the poor. The original Hyde Amendment was passed in 1976 by the House of Representatives, by a 207-167 vote. Why wouldn't pro-lifers have been satisfied with a Gerald Ford executive order banning Federal funds for abortion? At that time Ford was clearly pro-life and opposed Roe v. Wade as stated in a letter to Archbishop Bernardin of Cinncinnati who was president of the NCCB.  Further, he wanted a constitutional amendment to return the decision to the states and he rejected abortion on demand. Ford was pushed further by his opponent Jimmy Carter because the Southern Baptist while personally opposed to abortion but tolerant of Roe v. Wade refused to support funding for abortion. So a Ford executive order may have serve President Ford quite well as the campaign went on.

The Hyde Amendment represented the first major legislative success by abortion opponents. It was a major bipartisan effort, 207-167. This is not true of this health care reform act. The behavior of Ben Nelson and Bart Stupak will make future bi-partisan pro-life victories less likely.  I'd like to believe Stupak got something for his efforts beyond a face-saving but when all the pro-life legal minds, at this point, are holding their nose, then I smell defeat.

Democrats for Life of America headed by Kristen Day (see pix left) hasn't been burning up the track racing around to pick up new members. But now with Ben Nelson's flip and Stupak's failure the brakes have been slammed on the once hopeful organization. Today, it stands opposed to every single major pro-life organization by applauding the Stupak/Obama executive order. I'd love to be proven wrong but even Planned Parenthood and NARAL seem only disappointed not threatened. They are unhappy with rhetorical restrictions on abortion. They don't like their pro-abortion champion even giving the time of day to this anti-choice extremist Stupak.  The President knows and Stupak does too that an Executive Order cannot stop domestic abortion funding unless the limits are approved by statute. That was the reason for the Hyde Amendment and not a Gerald Ford executive order. Unless there is a silver legal lining in this executive order Democrats for Life sounds oxymoronic.

Listen to their press release for Sunday. It's almost self-parody: "Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) applauds the President Obama for his bold leadership in agreeing to an Executive Order that bans taxpayer funded abortions in the health care reform bill expected to pass the House this evening."

"We are proud to support this historic healthcare legislation. President Obama's Executive Order shows that when we work towards common ground in Washington we can do the people's business and end the gridlock. By working with House Leaders and the White House, DFLA shows how the pro-life Democrats are a key and growing constituency."

"Hubert H. Humphrey best stated it when he said, “ ... the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped. “

"End gridlock"? "Key and growing constituency"? Who is she kidding? Nelson's disgrace and Stupak's failure only guarantee that pro-life people will gravitate to one party (it's already been trending that way for two decades) but this isn't good for the pro-life movement.  I've always loved the Hubert Humphrey quote about the moral test of government. But maybe our expectations should be more modest. How about basic honesty and loyalty, Kristen?



    As one pundit put it: "Certainly there were many who supported the motion to recommit as a way to kill health care, but there just as certainly others who sought this as a means to prevent government funded abortions." SB List was right on to remove the award from Bart Stupak. Here he is speaking out against his very own legislation. Twice he had the opportunity to stop federally funding abortion with his vote, and twice he banked everything on an executive order of a President who voted to not provide medical care for babies born that survive abortions. Gone are the principles that held this man so high. Gone are the principles that put the life of the innocent child inside the womb on par with the life of the child outside the womb. Gone is my support of any kind for Bart Stupak and I hope everyone joins me and removing him from office.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Not everyone in the pro-life movement regards abortion as the logically foundational issue. Apparently, we now know that Stupak is among them.

    It seems clear to me: without a right to life, we can't presume rights to health care, education, free speech or whatever entitlement defined as a right or liberty defined as a freedom.

    However, America is filled with people who self-identify as pro-life and even generally vote that way but who see abortion as just one pro-person issue among many. Consequently, the need for Bart Stupaks hasn't gone away. A pro-abortion Democrat, Connie Saltonstall is challenging him in the primary. I don't know what type of Republican will run against the Democrat from Michigan's First District.

    That being the case it's hard to know why he went so far out on a limb only to saw it off himself.

    Nobody I've talked to sees a silver lining in the pending executive order. Some actually see it as a cynical way of forcing reconsideration of the annual ritual reestablishing of the Hyde Amendment. President Obama, I believe, thinks the Hyde Amendment is a form of discriminaton against the poor. I'll bet he has pledged in the past to work to abolish it. That is certainly the goal of NOW, NARAL and Planned Parenthood who have shown him great support.