In a baffling about-face, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on Sunday fought against a last-ditch effort to insert his own abortion-funding ban in the reconciliation “fix” package for the Senate health care bill, which passed Sunday night.
The House subsequently struck down Rep. Dave Camp’s (R-Mich.) attempt to pass Stupak’s language 232-199.
While Camp referred to his proposal as the “Stupak-Pitts amendment,” Stupak himself spoke against his Republican colleague’s effort, saying it was an attempt to “politicize life” that merely “purports to be a right -to-life amendment.” “This is nothing more than an opportunity to continue to deny 32 million Americans health insurance,” he said.
“This motion does not promote life,” declared Stupak. “It is the Democrats who have stood up for the principle of no public funding for abortions. … The executive order ensures that the sanctity of life will be protected.”
Angry shouts, including one of “baby killer,” were heard on the House floor as Stupak argued against the amendment. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, has identified himself as the heckler who shouted “baby killer,” though he claims his remark was not directed at Stupak personally.
Stupak had already reached an 11th-hour agreement with the White House earlier in the day to vote for the Senate health care bill – which pro-life leaders have called the largest abortion expansion since Roe v. Wade – in exchange for an executive order from President Obama upholding the Hyde amendment.
It had been widely acknowledged that, without at least two votes from Stupak’s group of Democrats holding out for an abortion funding ban, the bill could not have passed. The House voted 219-212 to pass the measure.
Planned Parenthood called the passage of the bill a “huge victory” that would “significantly increase insurance coverage of reproductive health care, including family planning.” “Thanks to supporters like you, we were able to keep the Stupak abortion ban out of the final legislation and President Obama did not include the Stupak language in his Executive Order,” stated the organization.
Pro-life leaders expressed shock at Stupak’s about-face hours before the final vote, after months of holding out for a true Hyde-amendment ban on abortion funding under extreme pressure from party leaders. The Susan B. Anthony list immediately rescinded a “Defender of Life” award slated to go to the Democrat lawmaker.
“The President’s disregard for the unborn is no surprise. It is the betrayal from those who have fought for life within his party that is the biggest shock,” stated Family Research Council president Tony Perkins on Sunday. “Especially Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) who had fought so valiantly in this debate, but folded when it really mattered.”
“Some Democratic Members who have had good pro-life records in the past turned away from those principles today, instead putting their trust in the most pro-abortion President in history and his equally pro-abortion Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius,” said Perkins.
Several top pro-life legal analysts immediately concluded that the executive order would do little to actually fix the glaring pro-life concerns in the Democrats’ health care overhaul.
Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a March 21 memo to congressional aides that it was the “unanimous view of our legal advisers” that the executive order was meaningless, thanks to decades of federal court precedent that apply the principles of Roe v. Wade to federal health legislation.
“According to these rulings, such health legislation creates a statutory requirement for abortion funding, unless Congress clearly forbids such funding,” wrote Doerflinger. “That is why the Hyde amendment was needed in 1976, to stop Medicaid from funding 300,000 abortions a year. The statutory mandate construed by the courts would override any executive order or regulation.”
In addition, William Saunders, senior vice president of Americans United for Life Action, pointed out Supreme Court precedent demonstrating that “a statute cannot be undone by an executive order or regulation.”
“For example, an Executive Order cannot prevent insurance plans that pay for abortions and participate in the newly-created exchanges from receiving federal subsidies, because this allowance is explicitly written in the bill,” wrote Saunders in a Washington Examiner column Sunday.
The National Right to Life Committee confirmed that the executive order “does not truly correct any of the seven objectionable pro-abortion provisions” in the bill.
“The executive order promised by President Obama was issued for political effect. It changes nothing,” stated NRLC. “The president cannot amend a bill by issuing an order, and the federal courts will enforce what the law says.”
In a video of Stupak speaking at a town hall meeting in Cheboygan, Mich. in October, the Democrat acknowledged that, should the abortion funding ban fail in an up-or-down vote, he “probably would not” vote against health care.