Kudos to Stupak

Kudos to Representative Bart Stupak, the pro-life Democrat from Michigan who has insisted throughout the health care debate that he wanted to see a bill pass provided it did not include government funding of abortion. While deals were being made on virtually every other issue, he dug in his heels, drew a line in the sand, and said, "This far and no further." Indeed, the entire country has had to stop and think about abortion in a way it has not done so for a very long time because of Stupak’s happy intransigence. I met Stupak last autumn at a social event and asked a mutual friend to introduce us. I told him that he was a hero to those of us who are progressive but also pro-life. He still is.

Last night, I watched the increasingly tiresome Rachel Maddow try and besmirch Stupak because of his association with "C Street" the shadowy home of conservative, and religiously conservative, members of Congress and other politicians. The house has endured a ton of bad publicity as one sanctimonious conservative after another got caught with their pants down – literally. Sen. John Ensign, who cheated on his wife with the wife of a good friend, lives there and Gov. Mark Sanford, whose walk in the Appalachians took him to Argentina and who had the gall to ask his wife if it was okay to continue seeing his mistress, kept a room there when in town. Maddow was concerned that Stupak did not pay enough in rent. And, maybe there is something to that. But, I suspect the timing of the story had more to do with her opposition to Stupak’s position on abortion, as did the fact that she only highlighted Stupak’s rent payments and not anyone else’s.

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On the narrow issue, members of Congress should not receive reduced, below-market housing from anyone except a blood relative or a wealthy fellow member. The appropriate market to analyze, however, is not that charged at a real estate office but by organizations like the University Club or the Society of the Cincinnati. This latter group also maintains a home in Washington at which members can stay. The rooms are sumptuous. The members, of course, must have an ancestor who served as an officer in the army of General George Washington. I go there whenever a Frenchman whose ancestor was Lafayette’s aide-de-camp is in town. I do not know if C Street required dues of its members but such arrangements may not, as Maddow implied, necessarily break any ethical rules. I would be more concerned about the free late night entertainment at C Street!

On the larger issue, the last thing progressives should be doing is demonizing those Democrats who are pro-life. For starters, it should be clear to everyone by now, that Stupak’s position is a principled one, and that always warrants respect. Second, it is bad politics – if Stupak were to lose, his seat would doubtlessly be taken by a pro-life Republican, and I do not see how that would advance Maddow’s agenda. Her attack last night put me in mind of the conservative attacks on moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava, an attack that resulted in the Democrats winning the seat for the first time since the Civil War.

If I had five minutes with Stupak, I would first congratulate him for his courage, for his support for life, and for his support for health care reform. Never forget, those pro-life champions on the other side of the aisle are not doing anything to pass this bill and so they have side-lined themselves entirely. I would also tell him why I actually prefer the Senate language, that the segregation of funds his own bill foresees is actually mandated in the Senate bill and that the lack of an individual opt-out which seems to be at the heart of the opposition of the USCCB misunderstands the fact that in an exchange, the mandate only applies to those who chose a plan with abortion. There is an easy way to avoid the mandate which is to choose a plan that doesn’t cover abortion, and a mandate that is easy to avoid is no mandate at all. Furthermore, Stupak is silent on the issue of people buying insurance through the exchanges with their own money while the Senate language insists that they, too, pay separately for any abortion insurance coverage. I would not sniff at the cultural, didactic value of making millions of Americans write separate checks every month. If Stupak believes, however, that the language in his amendment remains the only way forward, I do not question his motives and I still admire his constancy.

It is not clear to me how the abortion language could be changed in the current bill, but surely there is a way. It is becoming increasingly clear that Speaker Pelosi will need the 12 votes of the pro-life Democrats who insist on the Stupak language. It is amazing to me, and amazingly hopeful, that at the end of the day, the discussion about health care reform is coming down to a discussion of how to restrict abortion! Remember the demonizing of the President last spring, those who said he would be the most pro-abortion president ever. Yet, here we are discussing which is better, the language from Congressman Stupak or from pro-life Senator Ben Nelson. However that discussion turns out, it is a win for the pro-life movement. But, only if the health care reform bill passes. Otherwise, we will continue with the current system in which we subsidize abortion coverage through the tax code for the indefinite future. And, what is more, the other pro-life provisions of the health care reform bill will not be enacted.

So, kudos to Stupak. Kudos to Sen. Nelson. Kudos to all those who support pro-health care reform and pro-life candidates at election time.

Michael Sean Winters


 

 

 

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7 years 9 months ago
Hank,
"My way or the highway"?  That sounds like Obama, Pelosi, Reid to me!  If they cared about health care then why not go along with the Republicans?
Thats the thing about liberals.  They just cannot understand that there might be other ways of doing things.
Gabriel Marcella
7 years 9 months ago
Stupak is right and ABC's snippet hardly tells the whole story. According to Rick Garnett, distinguished professor of the U of Notre Dame Law School and who blogs in Mirror of Justice (www.mirrorofjustice.blogs.com), asserts "...that the health insurance measures...under consideration fund abortion only through the subdisization of insurance policies that 'happen to cover abortion,' but also through direct funding of 'community health centers,'(e.g., Planned Parenthood clinics) that provide abortions. This funding comes with no anti-abortion restrictions. In addition, the last I heard the current proposals include direct funding for abortions in Indian Country. (If this is no longer on the table, I'd welcome correction)."

Garnett also summarizes a recent Wall Street Journal piece by Charmaine Yoest to support his case. Garnett agrees with Joe Kash. "Why is he (the President) so insistent on abortion funding when, if he were willing to just go along with Stupak and the Bishops, he could-his party enjoys a huge majority, after all-(have)sweeping health-insurance reform? Is it so imporatnt to deny those pesky pro-lifers a 'victory'?"

Fellow pro-lifers, it seems that our tax dollars will go to fund Planned Parenthood (as much as $11 billion over 5 years) Moreover, there is, according to Yoest, no Hyde Amendment, and no conscience clause for health care providers who refuse to participate in abortions.
Kevin Jam
7 years 9 months ago
Really good thoughts. I tend to like Rachel Maddow's show, but her diatribe last night was really strange; we went from talking about abortion to weird religious groups, how much the guy pays for rent, and third-world dictators. If she is going to take Fox News to task for a glaring lack of professionalism, gross sensationalism, and utter fear mongering (which she often does, and very rightly so), she needs to hold herself to the same standard. It's getting to the point where it almost seems impossible to have a discussion without this sort of thing, whether it be "socialist," "baby killer," or "c-street cult." I find that immensely troubling.
ron chandonia
7 years 9 months ago
I wonder if I am the only reader who finds this set of backhanded compliments a bit bizarre.  One is left puzzling, Does MSW truly believe that Stupak is an honorable man?
David Nickol
7 years 9 months ago
Michael Sean Winters:
 
I am very confused. Yesterday, Stupak threatened to kill health care reform because he claimed everyone who obtains insurance through the health care exchange must pay a fee to subsidize abortion. Various sources (including Slate and ABC News) have pointed out that Stupak is mistaken. As you yourself explain, under the Senate language, only those who choose a plan through the exchange that covers abortion pay such a fee, and it is paid with their own money, not taxpayers' dollars. If they choose a plan that does not cover abortion, they pay no fee toward abortion. Many people (including you, apparently) actually prefer the Senate approach to the Stupak Amendment.
 
So while Stupak is to be commended for his pro-life efforts up until recently, he expressed intransigence yesterday based on a mistaken notion of what the Senate language does. He appears to be rallying pro-life forces to oppose passage of health care reform by misrepresenting (intentionally or unintentionally) what the Senate bill does. For those who believe that the Senate language is actually preferable to the House language, Stupak is threatening to kill health care reform if his own, weaker approach to abortion does not prevail. He is acting against health care reform, it seems to me. 
 
 
7 years 9 months ago
It seems that for Mr. Winters that a progressive agenda trumps abortion concerns.  He constantly reminds us that there is solid support for his abortion position on the other side of the aisle.  Has he ever thought that the other principles of the other side of the aisle may also be better for the American people and the world in general.  I personally came to that position a long time ago and so did a lot of other Catholics.  In fact books have been written about it.
 
When one so openly supports the so called ''progressive'' agenda, one has to look at all the results from such policy decisions.  I see no positive ones at all, only hopeful pie in the sky utopias that have never had any indication they could be fulfilled even in part.  I also see large amounts of destruction and death due to progressive policies.  You would think that would be the object of some discussions here by the Jesuits and opinion writers.  The concern with abortion obscures that discussion and Mr. Winters and others just assumes that progressive policies are good when so many people see the extremely negative outcomes these policies entail.
 
This whole protestation that Republicans are against healthcare is a farce.  The Republicans are not against health care only the way the Democrats are implementing it.  The health care program now being pushed through Congress has nothing to do with providing better health care and an honest person would admit it.
 
Finally, Mr. Winters brings up a couple sordid instances of Republican behavior and like him, I would say good riddance.  And I believe most Republicans also wish them good riddance and abhor what they did.  But unfortunately we have ourselves in a corner where votes trump morality.
7 years 9 months ago
I fear for the viability of the Democratic Party, and particularly members like Bart Stupak, if the health care debate is defeated by the abortion issue.  I believe a blood-letting of the worst sort would follow if conservative, pro-life Democrats stand by Stupak & the bill fails because of this issue.  Unfortunately, I think pro-life Democrats like Stupak & Winters are whistling past the graveyard anyway, and this is bound to happen sooner or later.  Pelosi will do whatever it takes to pass that bill. She'll probably need another face-lift when this is all said & done (are those covered by the health care reforms?).
Think Catholic
7 years 9 months ago
Stupak is taking a position: Obama's bills fund abortion, the House Bill does not, the former must be defeated.  MSW is taking the opposite position: Obama's bills don't fund abortion, the House Bill is not necessary, efforts to defeat Obama's bills must be defeated.  Winters maintains the ridiculous position that Obama's bill "actually mandates segregation", when Stupak's bill totally actually mandates it while Obama's funds the plans that cover abortion thereby making segregation a fraud.  And by the way, Obama's bill provides $11 billion accessible for Planned Parenthood and abortion directly, and fails to impose conscience protections.  But why would Winters care?  He is abandonning Stupak, and indeed seeking to defeat him.  Winters wants Stupak to lose his bid to insist on pro-life language or defeat Obama's bill. 
 
But Winters doesn't want to seem like he opposes Stupak,  So he writes glowingly of him.  Yet in the end he wants to defeat Stupak's opposition to Obama's bill.  "I love you sir, you are my hero, now fall into the abyss."
 
Winters wants to BE anti-Stupak while being THOUGHT pro-Stupak.  His actions and is words contradict.  There's a name for that,,,
David Nickol
7 years 9 months ago
Matt,
 
I may be mistaken, but it looks to me as if Bart Stupak wants health care reform ("Obamacare") to pass, albeit with what he considers to be appropriate prohibitions on abortion funding. The majority of those who support restrictions on abortion, however, do not want "Obamacare" to pass at all. So most who are "pro-Stupak" actually want him to fail. They (you?) are not hoping Stupak wins out and gets his language adopted as law. They are hoping his language is not adopted and he manages to keep health care reform from passing. Being "pro-Stupak" in this sense is really being against health care reform more than it is in favor of Bart Stupak achieving what he wants to achieve. 
James Lindsay
7 years 9 months ago
Stupak has been in a difficult spot since he began carrying water for the USCCB on this issue, since the USCCB has given him nothing in return. Unless the USCCB can deliver enough votes to get Stupak accepted as an amendment to the Senate bill (unlikely, since all but seven Democrats are against it), they are basically hanging Rep. Stupak out to dry. At the very least, they should have the National Right to Life Committee score the Senate bill with Stupak as a must pass for a perfect pro-life record. If the USCCB can't even do that, they should quietly accept Nelson as an improvement to the status quo.
Think Catholic
7 years 9 months ago
David-you can always snatch disagreement out of a situation of consensus.  You and I actually agree in disagreeing with MSW:  MSW is being inconsistent in claiming to support Stupak while opposing Stupak's actions.  Stupak is saying NO to the Obama bill, and yes to adding true pro-life language.  I agree on both those goals.  So does AUL and NRLC. ADD THE LANGUAGE! And of course Stupak would vote yes on a bill with pro-life language.  But guess what-there is no such thing as a bill with pro-life language as a practical matter.  NO ONE IS GOING TO ALLOW THE HOUSE LANGUAGE, not Obama, not Pelosi, not Reid.  ONLY ONE OPTION will be presented:  the Obama abortion funding bill.  Only in dreamland are we faced with an opportunity to vote for health reform with Stupak's language.  I wish we were faced with that, but it's not going to happen, no way no how and you know it.  I support the call to add Stupak's language. Where are you and MSW on the issue of adding Stupak's language?  MSW is actually against it!  But there is only one decision that the pro-abortion Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine will present: yes or no on Obama's language.  On that that decision, the only decision anyone will face, Stupak favors Defeating the Bill and you and MSW want to defeat him on that goal.  Unlike MSW, you at least are consistent in not also claiming to see Stupak as a hero while he is seeking the opposite of what you seek. 
David Nickol
7 years 9 months ago
Michael Binder:
 
An article in Politico today addresses what the USCCB may be willing to do for a compromise that would not necessarily be the Stupak amendment. See this link:
 
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0310/33962.html
 
Someone directly involved in Congress who writes on another blog thinks the Senate language may be preferable to the Stupak Amendment. He points out that in the Senate language, for those who choose a policy from the exchange that includes abortion coverage, there is the $1 charge that they must pay themselves and must be kept segregated. With the Stupak Amendment, a person may not buy a policy that covers abortion, but they may buy a separate rider covering abortion. The government does not regulate this rider, and he raises the question of whether insurance companies might offer "abortion plus" services to make the rider attractive even to people who don't want abortion coverage. 
 
It does not seem to me there is any way to predict what the impact of either the House or the Senate language would be on abortion. Stupak may strike some as "purer," but the law of unintended consequences might very well result in the purer approach increasing abortion coverage or the total number of abortions. For those who really want health care reform to pass and who do not have a crystal ball that will show the future, I wonder how wise it is to argue over whether the House or Senate language is preferable. The only way to really know would be to try each approach in 25 states for a few years and see what the impact on abortions was under each approach. 
 
I am presuming, of course, that the goal is to discourage, or at least not encourage, abortions. If the goal is merely to place the maximum distance between tax dollars and abortions, with the possibility that the actual number of abortions may increase as a consequence, I don't see that as pro-life. A solution that totally isolates taxpayers from even the most remote and indirect funding of abortion but causes abortions to increase would not seem to me to be a pro-life victory. I have, however, had discussions with "pro-lifers" who feel that legal restrictions are the most important thing, with the actual consequences of those restrictions being secondary at best. 
Think Catholic
7 years 9 months ago
David, calling the Senate/Obama abortion language better than Stupak is strange in itself, but it's even stranger to call it that for the reasons you and MSW give.  Consider those for a moment:
1) "Rider separation":  You and MSW defend the Senate language because it makes the rider separate from the main plan.  But Stupak does this and more.  Stupak mandates that no plan receiving federal funding can cover abortion, and if there is a rider (there need not be), it has to be completely 100% separate.  Obama FUNDS PLANS THAT COVER ABORTION, and uses fund segregation to claim the abortion part is separate from the plan, but that fund segregation is no less a fraud than the Capps fund segregation, which at one time MSW admitted was a fraud.  It's silly to say that the Senate language is good on rider separation, when Stupak mandates total complete separation so much so that no federal funding can go to a plan covering abortion, while the Senate language funds plans covering abortion and then claims to separate the funding.
2) "Check separation": MSW claims that the Senate language is better because it requires a separate check from the consumer to the plan for abortion.  But Stupak, by virtue of requiring complete separation, also requires that the consumer consciously and explicitly buy abortion insurance separately and the money necessarily must be separate.  The Senate language also has been reported as probibiting anyone from TELLING the consumer what his separate check is for, thus eviscerating any educational value that MSW claims.
3) "Group payment": MSW defends the Senate language's mandate that plan members pay for abortions on the grounds that those members could choose a non-abortion plan, and many private plans make people pay for abortion anyway.  But the question is whether Stupak is better, and it clearly is.  Under Stupak, no plan member must pay for other people's abortions, because no federally funded plan covers abortions, so if they are in a plan that covers abortions, it's literally because they chose it or they aren't getting federal funding.
It's just absurd to defend the Senate language over Stupak on the basis of these reasons.
David Nickol
7 years 9 months ago
Matt,
 
It seems to me that this is somewhat akin to the debate between liberals and conservatives over the minimum wage. Although both sides can cite statistics and studies and make rational arguments, neither side can convince the other, and in fact both sides feel their position is all but self-evident. A person has a position first, and then comes up with the arguments to support it later. (But sincerely so. I am not accusing anyone of dishonesty.) 
 
It seems to me there are good pro-life arguments in favor of Stupak and good pro-life arguments in favor of Nelson. Neither permits federal funding of abortion. It seems to me if you want the utter purity that you are after, it would have to be the case that no insurance *company* that provides abortion coverage could be allowed to participate in the exchange. Why should things be looked at on a policy by policy level? A company the provides abortion coverage in policies it sells to private employers and offers only policies that do not cover abortion on the exchange is still getting government money. This means the huge companies like Cygna and United HealthCare (and heaven only knows how many smaller companies) would be excluded. 
 
I think Matt Miller in the Washington Post makes a good point. He says, ''[T]his entire debate is ridiculous, because the feds already subsidize abortions massively, via the giant tax subsidy for employer-provided care. Today the feds devote at least $250 billion a year to subsidizing employer-based coverage, a subsidy that skews incentives horribly (but which big business and big labor wouldn’t let the politicians touch this year). A Guttmacher Institute study says that 87 percent of typical employer plans cover abortion, and a Kaiser study found that 46 percent of covered workers had abortion coverage.''
 
How many of those who call themselves pro-life balk at receiving insurance coverage from their employers that covers abortion? How many people who get private insurance without abortion coverage balk at buying insurance from a company that provides abortion coverage in other policies? If either the House or the Senate language passes, the person who buys an insurance policy through the exchange will be much farther removed from contributing toward other people's abortions than the large majority of people who receive insurance through their employers. And if you count tax breaks, every taxpayer will be contributing less to abortion through the exchange than they do through the system of employer-provided insurance. 
 
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2010/03/sorry_bart_stupak_-_the_feds.html
Think Catholic
7 years 9 months ago
"Neither permits federal funding of abortion."
Hmm, except for that $11 billion for community centers which is unrestricted, and except for the fact that it federally funds insurance plans that cover abortion.  But why sweat the details.
Jim McCrea
7 years 9 months ago
I think it quite strange that Stupak and his ilk are so adamant on no federal funding of abortion in this case, but don't seem to care one whit that, if health care reform fails, the status quo, which includes PRIVATE plans offering abortion services at will, will remain.
Abortion is abortion is abortion, no matter who pays for it.  I'm willing to bet that the selection of health care insurance plans from which Stupak can choose includes some which offer abortion services.  Where is his outrage about that?
If health care reform fails because of the instransigence of insisting on someone's definition of the perfect trumping the good, I personally will donate as much as I can afford to services that include abortion counseling.
7 years 9 months ago
Jim,

Thats your SCOTUS-given right. Just don't spend my money on abortion.
David Nickol
7 years 9 months ago
Joe,
 
What if it were determined that the Senate bill with its current language would result in the same number (or fewer) abortions because it extended health care to 30 million and (1) reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies by family planning services and (2) made formerly uninsured women more willing and able to go through with an unplanned pregnancy now that they had health care coverage?
 
In other words, what is more important, your tax dollars or the overall number of abortions in the United States?
Winifred Holloway
7 years 9 months ago
Kudos to David Nickol.  It has seemed to me from the outset of this controversy about abortion coverage in the exchanges to be a non-issue, or at least merely a symbolic one.  If those of us with private insurance plans that cover abortion are exempt from dropping them (in favor of what?), why is there so much opposition to insurance companies in the exchanges from covering abortion?  Yes, I know it's about no taxpayer money going to provide abortions, but to oppose this bill based on that premise, seems a stretch at best.   I am open to believing that Mr. Stupak is sincere and that he really wants health care reform, but frankly, I am suspicious of his motives.  There will be no other opportunity for reform of this system for possibly decades.  Unless, of course, the system collapses entirely in a few years, which seems not impossible. 
Think Catholic
7 years 9 months ago
David, what if it were determined that the shy is not really blue, and that we can make things happen just by wishing them?  The Guttmacher institute has already determined that giving every woman in America access to abortion insurance will increase abortions by tens or hundreds of thousands every year.  And many poor women are already insured for childcare, birth and newborn care by government programs.
7 years 9 months ago
David,
This is a Catholic blog.  As Mother Teresa said, "I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness."
7 years 9 months ago
Winifred,
If you are afraid of his motives then force him to vote.  Give him his abortion languange and see if he backs out.  If Obama, Pelosi, and Reid care so much about health care then why don't they give in to Stupak?  Don't they care about the uninsured?  Is abortion more important to them than covering the millions of uninsured?  Me thinks that abortion will carry the day.
John Hayes
7 years 9 months ago
The Stupak Amendment pays for abortions in the case of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother, so we can't claim that our religious principles keep us from voting for any bill that pays for abortions. Holding out for the Stupak language in place of the existing Nelson language is a prudential decision that requires a political judgment of the likelihood of being able to get health care + Stupak vs no health care bill at all. I don't think we or the USCCB are as skilled as politicians at making that judgment, and I hope that we have the humility to accept their judgment if the politicians tell us that the votes are just not there for health care + Stupak. At that point, the USCCB needs to tell our supporters in Congress that health care with Nelson is far better than no health care bill at all.  
7 years 9 months ago
Hey Vince and John,
If you really cared about health care you would just go along with Stupak.  If Obama, Pelosi and Reid really cared about health care then they would go along with Stupak.  If Maddow cared about health car then she would go along with Stupak.  If MSW really cared about health care then he would go along with Stupak.  Save abortion coverage for another day!
It seems that they care more about abortion coverage than health care for all!
 
Helena Loflin
7 years 9 months ago
Stupak will not vote in favor of healthcare reform.  He is against it.  Period.  With or without his "my way or the highway" language.  He is an obstructionist, a Republican in Democratic clothing.  On Monday, Stupak told the WSJ that "abortion isn't the only issue that will keep him from voting for the Senate bill if Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings it to the House floor."  "It'd be very hard to vote for this bill even if they fixed the abortion language," Stupak said.  Nothing will make Stupak vote for reform.  His agenda is purely political.  Defeat reform.  And what better way to do that: ye old wedge issue, abortion.  For Stupak, this his nothing to do with saving the unborn.  He is a corporate Democrat.  With Democrats like Stupak, who needs Republicans?
 
Also, take a look at "The World According to Stupak."
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100315/arons 
 
 
Helena Loflin
7 years 9 months ago
And, at The Progress Report, please check out "Stupak's Senseless Stand."
Vince Killoran
7 years 9 months ago
Stupak on ABC News this evening: ABC's Jonathan Karl's research of the wording of the bill finds Stupak's statement that federal money will go to "directly subsidize abortions" - is not true in all cases. "That's actually wrong," Karl reports. "In fact, you only pay the $1 abortion fee if you choose a plan that covers abortion. To anti-abortion advocates like Stupak, the only acceptable solution is a complete ban on abortion coverage by any insurance policy that accepts any federal money at all."

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