Pro-Life Movement Must Unify After Strategy Difference on Stupak Abortion Amdt

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 9, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Movement Must Unify After Strategy Difference on Stupak Abortion Amdt

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 9
, 2009

Sometimes in politics it is amazing how things play out much differently than anyone would expect and that is certainly the case with the vote on the government-run health care bill in the House and the divide produced in the pro-life movement on the strategy concerning the Stupak amendment.

Leading up to Saturday’s votes, the pro-life community was unified in a magnificent way in supporting an amendment to the health care bill to remove the abortion funding and in defeating the bill outright if the abortion funding remained intact (and for other pro-life reasons such as rationing).

Yet, in the hours leading up to the vote on the Stupak amendment, a strong fissure developed between pro-life advocates who felt the Stupak amendment was still needed and those who worried it would allow passage of the health care bill.

Let’s break down both sides and then, hopefully, get back on track to stopping abortion funding and defeating a pro-abortion, pro-rationing health care bill.

The Case Against Stupak

Saturday afternoon, a movement began in the pro-life community that was propelled by conservative bloggers and pro-life Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona in the House. He led the effort that apparently had the support of a few dozen lawmakers at one point.

As the votes got closer, these pro-life advocates got the sense that defeating the Stupak amendment (by voting present on it) would manipulate the vote totals in such a way as to prompt the pro-life Democrats who would oppose the bill without the abortion funding limits included to vote against the bill because of the Stupak amendment defeat.

The note that pro-life lawmakers like Stupak himself, Republican Rep. Anh Cao, and others ultimately voted for the bill and would have been no votes had the Stupak amendment failed.

Shadegg and his backers say adding Stupak would have "given cover" for pro-life Democrats in the House to ultimately vote for the health care bill. They reasoned that killing Stupak, and thus killing the bill, would have also ultimately killed the abortion and end-of-life concerns the pro-life community had and would have been an overall victory.

Ultimately, although Shadegg had a handful of pro-life lawmakers willing to go along with the strategy, he is the only pro-life advocate to vote present on Stupak.

Now, they are blaming pro-life groups and the Catholic bishops for saving a health care bill that could have been defeated otherwise.

The Case For Stupak

Heading into the Stupak amendment vote, virtually all of the major pro-life organizations were on board with the strategy that the Stupak amendment was needed to stop the massive funding of hundreds of thousands of abortions.

The Catholic bishops emerged as the prime pro-life lobbying force in the House itself as members of the USCCB’s pro-life team worked directly with Rep. Bart Stupak in the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi to secure the vote on the amendment.

The bishops were joined in supporting Stupak by National Right to Life, Americans United for Life and the Family Research Council — each of which contacted members of Congress to make it clear that they regarded a present vote as a vote against the pro-life amendment.

Virtually every other pro-life group — including the Susan B. Anthony List, ACLJ, Operation Rescue, the dozens of groups in the Stop the Abortion Mandate and Freedom to Care coalitions and the liberal pro-life groups Feminists for Life and Democrats for Life — also joined together in supporting the Stupak strategy.

The pro-Stupak forces note that the bill would have been approved anyway.

Leading up to the vote on the bill itself, and before the Stupak amendment vote, they note that the whip count from House Republican leaders on the number of lawmakers oppressed to the bill never reached the magic 41 number necessary to defeat it — although one could argue it did not because most expected the Stupak amendment to pass.

They also point out that had the Stupak amendment not been given a vote, Pelosi and her team had another option that would have given them enough votes to pass the bill.

As repeatedly reported in the days leading up to the vote, Indiana Rep. Brad Ellsworth had floated an amendment in Stupak’s absence (he was home after his mother-in-law passed away) that was a repeat of the phony Capps amendment that didn’t really ban abortion funding.

The Ellsworth amendment would have had Ellsworth himself and a handful of pro-life Democrats who ultimately supported Stupak peeling off from the group of Democrats opposing the bill and ultimately supporting the legislation with a fraudulent abortion amendment attached.

Meanwhile, pro-life groups and House pro-life Republican lawmakers argue that the mere allowance of a vote on Stupak would have been enough for some lawmakers to vote on the bill, even if the pro-life amendment had gone down in flames.

The pro-life groups argue that the choice was not really between killing Stupak and killing the bill or adding Stupak and the bill passing but one between the bill passing with Stupak added or the bill passing with a fake amendment added and full abortion funding. They ultimately said that defeating Stupak was "playing politics" and that every opportunity to stop massive abortion funding should be taken.

Confronting Realities

Regardless of which strategy anyone believes should have been used, there are some realities that the pro-life movement must acknowledge.

The vote on Stupak and the bill would not have been the last work on either abortion funding or the health care bill. This is the fourth inning of a long game and the battles on abortion funding and defeating the bill would have continued regardless of the outcome.

Had the House defeated the health care bill it could have easily put forward a new measure with the fake Ellsworth amendment or merely voted on the Senate version.

On the other hand, adding Stupak is no guarantee that abortion funding will be removed from a final bill — even the Stupak backers acknowledge this.

With the adoption of the Stupak amendment, and thanks to House Majority Leader John Boehner, we have confirmation of what we already know. The pro-abortion Democratic leaders will not promise to keep Stupak in the bill and will likely remove it at the conference committee when the House and Senate versions of the bill are reconciled.

That, of course, would provide incentive for the Stupak backers to ultimately defeat the bill in the House anyway.

The Senate is going to have a difficult process in producing a health care bill before the end of the year. If the Senate fails, consider the matter dead as an election year approaches. The conference committee is another chance to defeat the bill as the House and Senate are divided on the public option and other non-abortion issues that could easily sink the bill in one chamber or the other.

Pro-Life Movement Must Move Forward

The aftermath of the Stupak amendment vote hasn’t been pretty. I’ve read countless comments on Twitter and Facebook from pro-life people who are livid at one side or the other.

But attacking pro-life groups, lawmakers or people for supporting one strategy or the other is not productive. We have so many battles ahead that a divided pro-life movement only leads to losing the battles on abortion funding and stopping this pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia health care bill.

Even with Stupak added, every pro-life group admits that rationing and conscience issues remain and that the bill still has concerns or the pro-life movement. No pro-life group — and even the bishops despite some mis-reporting in the mainstream media — are supporting the House bill as approved.

Let’s cease the attacks on one another. This is only a strategic debate between people who wholeheartedly want to see abortion end immediately if not sooner and not a matter of one side or the other abandoning pro-life principles. We all want to get the ball in the end zone and some of us want to pass and some to run the ball.

There are too many unborn children and elderly and disabled at risk in the health care bill to let this one inning (excuse the mixed sports metaphors) define where we go as a pro-life community. There is an entire game to be played and adopting Stupak has riled and motivated the pro-abortion forces. Divided, they win, but united we can stop abortion funding and defeat this pro-abortion, pro-rationing bill.

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