By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 22, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In an interview with FOX News Channel's America Live with Megyn Kelly Monday, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), once the leader of a group of pro-life Democrats vowing to vote down the bill without an abortion funding ban, defended his last-minute decision to switch his vote.

Hours before the vote Sunday night, in which the House of Representatives approved the abortion-expanding Senate bill 219-212, Stupak convoked a press conference to announce that he would vote for the bill, after accepting President Obama's promise of an executive order applying Hyde-amendment restrictions on abortion funding to the health care bill.  Had an agreement not been reached with the Stupak Democrats, it was widely recognized, the health care bill would have been defeated.

In Monday's interview, Stupak hit back at the hail of criticism from pro-life leaders who said the executive order was too impermanent, and insufficient to stop abortion funding.

"There is nothing that would stop this president from a month from now, a year from now, ten years from now, of repealing this executive order," admitted Stupak; but, he claimed, "whether it's an executive order or a statute, the next Congress or even this Congress can overturn a law in the next six months."

Stupak insisted, contrary to his critics, that Obama's promised executive order "is worth more than the paper it is written on."

"History shows us that an executive order has the whole force of law. It is just as good as having a law," Stupak said. "Would I have liked to have had a law? ... absolutely."

"The only option you had was leave the Senate language or strengthen it to prevent abortions under an executive order - that's what we did, we stayed true to those principles - or vote no," said the Michigan Democrat. "So you kill the bill and we do not have health care ... I've always said I want to see health care for the nation.''

Stupak had told Kerry Picket of the Washington Times, when asked how he could be sure that the president would not rescind the order, that "the president [wouldn't] sign it to rip it up tomorrow."

Responding to news that the Susan B. Anthony list had rescinded his planned "Defender of Life" award, Stupak said the group "can give their Defender of Life award to whoever they choose." "I did not do it to win an award; I did it because I stood for the principle to protect the sanctity of life," he said. "I've done that. ... If I would have followed Susan B. Anthony's way, it wouldn't have worked."

Top pro-life organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Right to Life Committee, the Family Research Council, and Americans United for Life, were unanimous that the executive order was insufficient to repair the serious abortion issues in the health bill. 

Even Planned Parenthood lauded the passage of the bill as a "great victory" that would "significantly increase insurance coverage of reproductive health care, including family planning," despite the executive order.

Phyllis Schlafly, president and founder of the conservative grassroots public policy organization Eagle Forum, said that Stupak's turnaround "will expose the myth of the 'pro-life Democrat."

"It is naive for any elected official, especially one who describes himself as 'pro-life,' to expect that a promise to issue an Executive Order that reasserts the intentions of the Hyde Amendment will be fulfilled by the most pro-abortion president to ever sit in the White House," stated Schafly on Sunday. "Perhaps Mr. Stupak and his fellow pro-life Democrats forget that President Obama's first Executive Order was the repeal of the Mexico City Policy to allow for international funding of abortion.

"Not only would an Executive Order be rendered meaningless in the face of Congress passing legislation which actively provides for the massive expansion and funding of abortion services, but anyone who doubts the abortion tsunami which awaits this bill becoming law lives in a fantasy world."