Did He Cave?

It is funny to witness how so many people, assessing the same set of characters and facts, can reach such extraordinarily different conclusions. The question in attentive Catholic circles was the same, however: Did he cave? The "he" in question is pro-life Congressman Bart Stupak who refused for weeks to accept the Senate’s abortion restrictions "as is" but who negotiated a deal with the White House for an executive order that clarified the parts of the Senate language Stupak thought were problematic.

One of the difficulties of living in this fast-paced, tech-driven culture is that staying up-to-date requires attention to detail. Thus, at the website of the American Principles Project, the homepage still touts their support for Bart Stupak. On their blog, of course, they impugn his integrity. It is far from clear to me that Stupak changed very much. What changed was Stupak’s sense of how the new law treated abortion funding, and that change came about by eliciting an executive order from the President to ensure that the new law is implemented in such a way so as to achieve what all sides said they wanted in the current debate, a ban on federal funding of abortion. Ah, but what did change is that once he was satisfied on abortion, he decided to vote for the health care bill and that, my friends, is what his conservative critics could not abide.

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Others were just as condemnatory as APP. The American Catholic website says "Stupak was busy selling out." InsideCatholic’s Deal Hudson wrote "Stupak’s decision betrays Catholics and the faith he calls his own." And over at the Catholic Key Blog, editor Jack Smith has brought the non-judgmental word "perfidious" into the debate. Did any of these Catholics listen to yesterday’s Gospel about the woman caught in the act of adultery?

These conservative Catholics such as professor Robbie George, who runs the APP, and Deal Hudson, who was Catholic liaison for the Bush administration, find themselves this morning in some unusual company. They were not the only ones deriding the Stupak solution and the President’s forthcoming executive order. The President of Planned Parenthood began her statement: "We regret that a pro-choice president of a pro-choice nation was forced to sign an executive order that further codifies the proposed anti-choice language in the health care reform bill, originally proposed by Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska."  She went on to say that at least the original Stupak language was not codified, but was unable to explain the difference. And the President of NOW was even more irate. "We are incensed by Obama’s executive order designed to appease a handful of anti-choice Democrats who have held up health care reform in an effort to restrict women's access to abortion," Terry O’Neill, NOW’s President told reporters by email.

 

Politics makes strange bedfellows as they say. A good rule of thumb in politics, however, is that when you are getting attacked equally from both the extreme right and the extreme left, it means you have landed in the middle. On a contentious issue like the politics of abortion, the middle is the most uncomfortable place to be but it is where a majority of Americans want their politicians to be. I do not believe Stupak "caved" or "betrayed" his pro-life principles, although there is some merit in the observation that President Obama threw his pro-choice allies under the bus: It should be remembered that pro-choice groups hate Hyde to being with, so their sense of disgust is at least grounded in reality.

It appears that Congressman Stupak, like others, became satisfied that the bill that passed, as amplified in the executive order, will not fund abortions with public money. If you have drunk the GOP Kool-Aid which repeats the meme that President Obama is "the most pro-abortion president in history" you probably will not trust him to keep his word about the executive order, although you would be hard-pressed to show how such a course of action would serve the President politically. But, if you set aside your hermeneutic of suspicion, and remember that Cong. Stupak really, really did want to vote for health care reform, yesterday’s agreement does not warrant any of the calumnies being thrown at its sponsors. Stupak is not traitor. The President is not, after all, the "most pro-abortion president in history" no matter how often the meme is repeated. President Obama and the Congressman from Michigan are the people who helped get health care across the finish line. That is no small achievement for the American people.

Michael Sean Winters

 

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CATHERINE GREEN MRS
7 years 7 months ago
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBbexhwSDVs
Stupak was interrupted on the house floor as he spoke on Democrats being the ones who stood up for life in the health insurance reform bill; he was called ''baby killer.''   I am sorry the clip does not include all his statement on protection of human life at all ages.  
 
 
James Lindsay
7 years 7 months ago
Did he cave? In one way, he did, by not only voting against his own amendment when it was brought up as a motion to recommit, but denouncing the way it was brought up.

He had no intention of killing the bill with his provisions. Indeed, when he realized that the votes could not be had in the Senate for his original proposal, he worked out a deal with the White House to settle his outstanding concerns.

Only those who were hoping to use his provision as a way to kill the bill were disappointed. Rep. Stupak let them know what he thought of this strategy in no uncertain terms. Indeed, this will likely go down as a defining moment for pro-life Democrats and the movement as a whole. It separates those who will actually do something for the unborn (by giving their parents the economic ability to both bring the pregnancy to term and raise the child themselves) from those who wish to use them as a sentimental electoral issue and fundraising strategy.
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 7 months ago
I use my husband as a litmus test for the average American.  He votes for candidates - not Republicans or Democrats - and clings to no ideology.  He seems to be able to see things from both sides.
 
Last night over dinner he was very happy that the health care bill had passed, saying that this would be a very good thing for the country.  But, he said, I don't like to think that we will be paying for abortions. 
Well, insurance companies cover abortions, and when we pay our insurance premiums, we are funding abortions, so what's the difference, I asked him.  Do we refuse to buy health insurance because abortion is covered?
 
The difference, he said, is that when abortion is covered by government money, it implies that all of us support a morally controversial procedure.  And this isn't the foundation upon which I want "all of us" built.
 
I agreed with him, but had to bring up the death penalty, which all of us definitely do not support, but which is the law in many states.  We're given no choice, until the law is changed, we have to be a part of state sponsored killing.
 
It may appear that Obama threw his pro-choice allies under the bus, but really he was opening the door to healthcare reform for those of us who do not want "all of us" to be forced to be a part of the funding of abortion.
 
7 years 7 months ago
The real lesson Stupak and his allies brought to the wider culture is 'abortion is not health care' ... that simple sound bite/message has resonated far and wide with more shout-out than any pro-life message in the last 35 years.. We just witnessed a Catholic coup. however conservative Catholc bloggers can't appreciate what they refuse to see. I await to see if bishops see it too.  
Think Catholic
7 years 7 months ago
Mr. Winters selectively quotes Planned Parenthood, failing to observe that they consider this vote an overwhelming victory for reproductive rights:
http://www.ppaction.org/network/hcr10fvng?source=hcr10fv_pphp
To one extent I agree with Winters-since the Executive Order changes Nothing, Rep. Stupak must have changed his mind on the bill itself.  Problem is this Mr. Winters: what will you do when PP sues and obtains the $11 Billion in CHC funding for abortions?  What do you care right now about the fact that the reform Act fails to restrict the government from conscience violations and the Order does nothing to change that?  What do you care that it lets HHS define various elements of health care as including abortion, also not changed by the Order?  What do you care about federal funding of abortion insurance plans?  What do you care about your July 2009 promise not to support such a bill?  Or do you only care that now you can sneer and villify pro-life Catholics? 
James Lindsay
7 years 7 months ago
You are more likely to be funding abortion by spending your money at McDonalds, Starbucks, or anywhere that low wage workers toil (and whose only choice may be abortion - especially if the pimply faced kid flipping the burgers or making your latte has gotten his girlfriend in trouble) than through your tax dollars (which won't happen under the Nelson language).
ron chandonia
7 years 7 months ago
Obviously, it would be far better if you and Congressman Stupak are right, Michael, and the Republicans are wrong on the potential impact of the newly passed legislation on abortion.  But I think it is instructive that up to the very last moment, the Pro-Choice Democratic Coalition were adamant against allowing ''Stupak language'' to get back into the legislation itself, while they quietly went along with President Obama's executive order.  In light of that, the protests from NOW and Planned Parenthood seem no more than pro forma.
7 years 7 months ago
All that needs to be said about this bill is said by another Catholic columnist, Ross Douthat, in his NY Times column.  Now we get to see, as Pelosi famously said, what's in the bill and whether or not all the good and bad things come to pass.  I couldn't help but laugh as I watched jubilant Dems on the House floor hoist the 2000+ page bill victoriously in the air as if it were a war trophy;  where was Obama's scolding them that it was a mere political ''prop'', like he did Cong. Cantor at the summit?  Oh, and as if on cue, I received an email from our administrator this am that our plan's premiums are increasing on May 1.  C'est la vie.
 
Mr. Winters, you can spin the abortion battle into a larger far right wing vs. us moderate types if you want.  THere's more than enough Kool-aid on both sides for the drinking.  And I respect the heck out of Bart Stupak because he stood up not only to the lefties like Pelosi, but to folks like you who were more than willing to let him swing out on his own to get the plan passed.  But come November, I guess we'll see where the ''majority of the American people are''.  This Dem majority has been the most polarizing force in my young political life that I can remember. Obama has shown that the "change" he seeks is change is far from what we imagined.  I look forward to seeing them gone & to seeing Republicans hoist the House gavel in victory.  This, I believe and pray, is the definition of "pyrrhic victory".
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 7 months ago
Mr. Landry,
With the unlimited power now granted to corporations to support the candidates of their choice, your prediction of a Republican plutonomic victory may well hold true.  Not a victory for anybody but the moneyed elites.  Then they can continue their highly successful program of turning this into a third world country.  Where have the last thirty years of neoliberalism, unfettered capitalism, free trade, globalism and oil wars left us?  Where we are.  It will take thirty years more to recover from the second Gilded Age, if we ever do.  Of course, your sainted party will be more than happy to resume the downward spiral at a much faster rate than the spineless democrats.
7 years 7 months ago
Can we please stop advancing and arguing the absurb notion that the only people advancing a political agenda via theology are the opponents of the health care bill?  I mean that is a totally vapid argument on both sides.  Certainly our political "agenda" is as deeply rooted in most instances as our theological views, so we are all in a sense advancing a particular agenda no matter our view on the health care bill passed.  But its demeaning to try to argue that if you support the bill you're acting out of pure, self-emptying notions while your opponents are just proof-texting a far-right-wing agenda with half-baked notions of Catholic teaching.  One of my problems with Catholic social teaching is that its so amorphous in most instances that its like a robe of many colors, and many of its particular teachings are so dated as to be obtuse (I think of its antiquated support for labor unions primarily).  As far as name-calling, racial or otherwise, both sides have name-callers.  I've never seen such file name-calling as at some anti-war rallies in 2003.  And I'm sure I could find the YouTube video of the crowd at Obama's inauguration chanting "F you" to Bush as he flew away.
Gabriel Marcella
7 years 7 months ago
Time will tell if "caved in" is the appropriate term. Stupak could have retained leverage by defeating the House bill and perhaps forced another round, and perhaps endangered his own poltical future and thereby the strength of the pro-life vote in Congress. Whether the executive order prevails over the Senate bill also remains to be seen. There are some lessons for pro-life Catholics:
1. Public information and debate is essential. The American media (perhaps this blog included) did a poor job of analyzing the merits of the overall legislation. We can assume that the media will more than likely support the abortion position, to the point of ridiculing the pro-life.
2. The American Bishops are the heroes for sticking to their sophisticated understanding of the hidden nuances in the Senate bill, far better than any Catholic publication.
3. Promises are not enough, "lock it down" in Stupak's words.
4. Name calling of the kind seen in this blog and others is counterproductive. Right to life organizations have been called appendages of a political party, while the bishops have been assailed with intemperate language.
5. The Bishops need to redouble efforts to reach all the constituencies in the Catholic Church with educational programs on how to defend life in this pluralistic society.
Virginia McNally
7 years 7 months ago
Legally, the executive order is meaningless. Richard Doerflinger of the USCCB prolife office issued a good statement explaining that. The courts have ruled that federal health legislation must fund abortion unless congress specifically exempts it-congress, not the president. Executive orders only apply to the executive branch and cannot trump a federal law. This law does not specifically deny abortion funding, so they will be covered. If funding were to be denied, any lawsuit challenging the executive order would win.
Obama is deceiving prolife Catholics-again. Caveat emptor!
James Lington
7 years 7 months ago
The lack of praise for Stupak from the bishops shows one thing, they, like their Republican controllers, never wanted the bill to pass in the first place. Stupak got the final legislation to reflect exactly what the bishops claimed they wanted, but now they are silent (some are even still complaining). The bishops never wanted reform because the Republicans never wanted reform. Their half-hearted expression of support for expanding coverage was only window dressing. They thought they had it killed with unrealistic demands for abortion-funding restrictions. They were wrong. Now their real identity has been revealed. Thank God the true Catholic principles won out.
Bill Mazzella
7 years 7 months ago
History will give a lot more credit to Nancy Pelosi who at 70 years old showed the country how to get things done. She handled the bishops and the president and did not fail Americans desperate for a fair health care system. She showed the president how to be presidential and the bishops how to be Catholic.
KEVIN MULCAHY
7 years 7 months ago
"Antiquated support for labor unions"?  So workers no longer have a right to organize to advance their own interest?  Why not?  Is it because American companies have been so steadfast in providing fair wages, health benefits, non-discriminatory practices, and safe working places?  The reading I've done suggests that most workers have in fact lost ground in all of these areas, as labor unions have been weakened-often by legally dubious corporate practices.  Certainly unions can have their own problems, but the answer would be to reform them, not abolish them.
The Republican dream seems to be a country without unions (the "right to work"), without laws or regulations affecting corporations (deregulation), and without the right of individuals to sue corporations for damages (tort reform).  If that dream is realized, what would be the condition of workers and consumers in this country?  Corporations logically pursuing their mandate of higher profits for owners/stockholders will look to reduce wages and benefits, and will almost certainly cut corners even more in areas of workplace safety, product safety, and adverse environmental impact (all of these points can be amply and easily documented).  Not a dream I share, and I'm not sure why anyone not already rich would.
Vince Killoran
7 years 7 months ago
Kevin is correct in his rebuttal to Jeff's "antiquated support for labor unions primarily" claim.  The "Labor Question," as it used to be known, is central to solving so many of our other pressing issues like poverty, family and community cohesion, health, and the environment.
 
I think that is causes some discomfort among Catholics, not only when conservative Catholics try to diminish its importance but, even "liberal" Catholics who pay little attention to it or support the labor movement as long as it's "not in my backyard" (e.g., Catholic colleges and hospitals). What ever happened to labor reform legislation?  Will the USCCB put their resources toward passing a strong measure?
CATHERINE GREEN MRS
7 years 7 months ago
So finally I came across the whole clip of Stupak speaking - this is not a selling out; this was a Democrat proudly pro life.  Yes it includes the outburst now identified as coming from Republican Rep Randy Neuberger.
 
http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/baby-killer-shouted-stupak-during-health-c
7 years 7 months ago
The President of Planned Parenthood also included in her statement the following: "What the president's executive order did not do is include the complete and total ban on private health insurance coverage for abortion that Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI) had insisted upon."  An executive order does not have the force of law.  It can be overturned by congressional legislation.  It can be changed or rescinded by President Obama or any future president.  Did Stupak cave?  The answer to the question is whether the health care reform bill will fund abortions and whether the executive order is enough to prevent that from happening.
David Nickol
7 years 7 months ago
Matt Bowman,
 
You say: "Problem is this Mr. Winters: what will you do when PP sues and obtains the $11 Billion in CHC funding for abortions?"
 
You seem to be certain that Planned Parenthood will sue, the courts will rule in their favor, and CHCs will begin performing federally funded abortions. Will you put a time frame on this for us? When will the suit or suits be brought, how long will it take for them to be won, and when will the first federally funded abortion be performed at a Community Health Center? 
 
If you provide a date by which this is certain to happen, I will donate $100 to the Alliance Defense Fund or the NRLC or any pro-life charity you designate if you agree to donate $100 to NARAL if there have been no authorized federally funded abortions at Community Health Centers by the date you name.
 
If you find the wager unacceptable, by all means ignore it. But it seems to me this is a case where we will actually know who was right and who was wrong. Federal funds will either be used for abortions in CHCs or they will not. You seem to be predicting it is a certainty. I am wondering whether - if it doesn't happen - you will admit you were wrong or whether (as with FOCA) you will claim the pro-life movement prevented the inevitable from happening.
Think Catholic
7 years 7 months ago
David you never fail to find a distraction in every situation: predicting the nanosecond it happens has nothing to do with whether it will happen.  But we certainly will all know, just like we all knew abortionists would be funded abroad by rescission of the Mexico City policy, and abortions would be funded in DC.  You can be sure that if comments are still open on this blog you all will be among the first to be asked to take responsibility.  I will expect you at that time to defend Planned Parenthood's position with full vigor.
James Lindsay
7 years 7 months ago
Executive Orders, they are like the signing statements that Bush and his lawyers said were as good as law, right?
Rudy Rau
7 years 7 months ago
?For close to a year, a number of 'good Catholic' organizations have essentially labeled the president a liar by predicting that he would use health care reform as a vehicle for increasing abortions. Of course, using taxpayer money. I wonder about those organizations that claim they follow Christ yet unjustly accuse and predict for reasons that can only be political.
Pro-lifers have long argued that federal funds should never be used in the act of killing an unborn child. But many of us have taken the president's word that the health care bill will not remove the ban on federal funding of abortions. We are no less faithful Catholics than the people who spend a great deal of time pointing fingers and promoting one political party over the other.
That particular party has spent years giving lip service to the pro-life cause while standing by as millions of babies died. It has continued to use smoke and mirrors while obstructing and obfuscating for months. Those who think there will be a wholesale change in Congress this year are likely to be quite surprised that many of us WILL remember that the Stupaks stood their ground as best they could. We will not return the reins of government to the party that, to serve its own ego, attempted to derail recovery and a plan to bring health care to the poor.
Rudy Rau
7 years 7 months ago
''Obama is deceiving prolife Catholics-again.''  It never ceases to amaze me how many people have this knack of knowing exactly what other people are thinking, or what they are going to do.
We have an abundance of little gods running around.
When you falsely accuse someone, we are taught, you offend God. And unlike a civil matter in which the president is a public figure, falsely accusing another child of God is a very serious matter whether that child is the president or someone who lives down the street.
7 years 6 months ago
Did He Cave?

Yes
James Lindsay
7 years 6 months ago
I see the filters have been relaxed. No one should doubt that if a funding stream from the federal taxpayer to abortion clinics is verified, a fix will be included as part of technical corrections legislation. Now that reform is safely passed, you won't find anyone against this, least of all, me.

Given that there is undoubtedly a severability clause in the legislation, most of the reforms are safely installed. If the individual and employer mandates are overturned the rest of reform still stands. Indeed, such judicial repeal would be just the impetus needed for a more robust public option or single payer solution funded by the kind of payroll tax that won't fall on constitutional grounds, although I could forsee an opt out for those who are happy with their insurance (provided it is more generous). While many are upset about the growing nature of health care in the economy - as long as it is paid for it is really not a problem. The projections that somehow health care will eat the American economy are a bit alarmist. A boom in exports and manufacturing or some other sector would crowd out the growth in health care.

As for repeal, a bit of math shows that it won't happen under this President's term, since with 41 Republican Senators now and 67 required, there is no way there will be enough to override an Obama veto (since 26 Dems are not up for reelection in 2010). I say this so you don't give money for anyone seeking funding for a repeal movement. Give it to the RNC for 2012 or have a Mass offered for the President's well being and intentions (if you really want personal spiritual development).
Jim McCrea
7 years 6 months ago
Definitely have a mass offered for the President's well-being.  The ever-burgeoning outright nastiness that is exhibited here in this Land of the Free and Home of the Brave lead me to fear that some idiot will decide that (s)he has to try to take Obama out because God is telling her/him to do so.
If it is OK to call publicly legislators the "N" word and the "F" word and to spit on them, then the next step is simply to go from speech to action.

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