By Kathleen Gilbert
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 24, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Once the beacon of hope for pro-lifers in their fight against the abortion expansion embedded in the Senate health care bill, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on Tuesday turned around and blasted his pro-life critics, dismissed the Catholic hierarchy as having no control over Catholic legislators, and expressed support for Planned Parenthood and its provision of “health care” in his district.
Stupak and a crucial handful of other House Democrats holding out for an abortion funding ban took the whole country by surprise Sunday by switching sides mere hours before the final health care vote. The switch was made in exchange for an executive order from President Obama purporting to uphold the Hyde amendment abortion funding ban for the legislation – an executive order that pro-lifers have said is essentially meaningless.
In a recent interview with the Washington Times about his health care vote, Stupak defended Planned Parenthood, saying that the clinics in his district do not perform abortions. Interviewer Kerry Picket pressed Stupak on his reasons for not voting for the Pence amendment in 2009, which would have stripped Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer funding under Health and Human Services "family planning" (or Title X) funds.
"I don’t think I ever voted to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood does not do abortions…in my district," said Stupak. "Planned Parenthood has a number of clinics in my district that provide health care for my people. Therefore, these clinics do quite well in my district, and I’m all for health care and extending it to everybody - access to health care, so that’s just another way.”
The lawmaker indicated that he trusted the organization's "segregation of funds," between monies diverted to abortion and those going to other health services.
"Also on Planned Parenthood, when they do it, there is a segregation of funds that go with it. It’s usually about four hundred million they tried to de-fund on Planned Parenthood. Maybe this time, I’ll look at it again if Pence brings it up. Maybe I’ll vote differently this time, but you’re right I did vote against it.”
Picket pointed out that, while the Planned Parenthood clinics in Michigan did not list abortion services, they did list abortion referral as one of the services offered.
This past Sunday night Stupak shocked his pro-life supporters when he shot down a last-ditch attempt to include his own abortion-ban language in the bill, saying the motion to send the bill back to include the ban only "purports to be a right-to-life motion" that "is really to politicize life." (See video here.)
"This is nothing more than an opportunity to continue to deny 32 million Americans health insurance," he said, amid loud cheers and angry shouts. "This motion does not promote life.
"It is the Democrats who have stood up for the principle of no public funding for abortions. ... For the Republicans who now claim that we send the bill back to committee under this guise of protecting life, is disingenuous."
Stupak later told the Times that he voted against his own language "because I feel that we have adequately — more than adequately protected life, the sanctity of life especially with the executive order, the colloquy on the floor," and suggested pro-lifers dissatisfied with the executive order were being hypocritical.
"And as I said on the floor, the right to life groups applauded George Bush in 2007 when he did his executive order, and now we did our executive order, suddenly its not good enough?" he said. "I believe some groups politicize life. As I said in my motion, when I spoke against the motion [to recommit], ‘let’s not politicize life.' Let’s prioritize life, and that’s what we did in this legislation and the executive order."
Yet top pro-life legal analysts, including the National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - a strong supporter of health care reform - all agreed that the executive order does not have the power to correct the bill's serious flaws on life issues.
In a phone interview with the Daily Caller, Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee responded to Stupak's charges. “We haven’t said anything to suggest we think executive orders are never of value,” he said.
However, Johnson pointed out that Bush's executive order supported existing law, whereas Obama's executive order "basically just recites what's in the Senate bill.
"We do not understand how an Executive Order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions," noted the USCCB in a statement Tuesday. Even Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards asserted that the bill would "significantly increase access to reproductive health care," and dismissed the order as a "symbolic" gesture.
Stupak also noted in the interview, in answering a question on papal sovereignty, that, "the Pope and the Catholic faith does not control Catholic legislators." "We must vote reflective of our districts and our beliefs. When I vote pro-life, it happens to be my own personal belief, also my district’s beliefs and the nation's," he said.
The national pro-life movement has continued to recoil from the lawmaker: days after the Susan B. Anthony List rescinded its planned "Defender of Life" award for Stupak, Michigan Right to Life has rescinded its endorsement of the lawmaker.
"Rep. Stupak indicated he would oppose any efforts to include federally funded abortion in national health care plans; support efforts to specifically exclude federally funded abortion in national health care plans; and be willing to vote against federal funding of abortion except where necessary to save the life of the mother," said the group in a statement.
"On March 21, Rep. Stupak failed to meet those requirements by voting for President Barack Obama's health care bill, H.R. 3590."