Catholics and the abortion regime

Back to that point Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput made in a recent column analyzing ‘A bad bill and how we got it’

In counting the ways, he went through several lessons we need to draw from what happened to give us legislation that is not grounded in moral fundamentals. I wanted to come back to his final one.

Fourth, self-described “Catholic” groups have done a serious disservice to justice, to the Church, and to the ethical needs of the American people by undercutting the leadership and witness of their own bishops.  For groups like Catholics United, this is unsurprising.  In their effect, if not in formal intent, such groups exist to advance the interests of a particular political spectrum.  Nor is it newsworthy from an organization like Network, which – whatever the nature of its good work — has rarely shown much enthusiasm for a definition of “social justice” that includes the rights of the unborn child.

In his role as teacher and pastor, Archbishop Chaput is being instructive about the confusion certain organizations are causing the lay faithful these days.

But the actions of the Catholic Health Association (CHA) in providing a deliberate public counter-message to the bishops were both surprising and profoundly disappointing; and also genuinely damaging.  In the crucial final days of debate on health-care legislation, CHA lobbyists worked directly against the efforts of the American bishops in their approach to members of Congress.  The bad law we now likely face, we owe in part to the efforts of the Catholic Health Association and similar “Catholic” organizations.

On the other hand,

many thousands of ordinary, faithful Catholics, from both political parties, have worked hard over the past seven months to advance sensible, legitimate health-care reform; the kind that serves the poor and protects the rights of the unborn child, and immigrants, and the freedom of conscience rights of health-care professionals and institutions.  If that effort seems to have failed, faithful Catholics don’t bear the blame. That responsibility lies elsewhere.

This all reminds me of something I came across and bring up occasionally in writing and giving talks, always to a surprised audience. It quotes a religion writer:

Several years ago, I did an analysis on the pro-life voting records of members of Congress correlated with religious affiliation. I no longer have it and we have a different Congress today, but the main finding still holds – If there were NO Catholic members of Congress, the body would be significantly MORE pro-life.

Think about that.

If, God willing, the abortion regime someday ends and historians looking back in horror on the period make their report, two things will be true: 1. The Catholic Church was the strongest voice in the defense of life. 2. The abortion regime would have been impossible without the active encouragement of many individual Catholics.

This is even clearer now than it was when I first discovered it, one year ago.

We didn’t know Stupak

Days after the Senate version of the health care bill was ceremoniously and victoriously signed into law, media people are still writing about the man who made it happen. Besides President Obama…

Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak had been the determined pro-life boy with his finger in the dike holding back the flood of new abortions that would happen under health care law that provides federal funds and wider access to them. Or so it seemed.

Jim Geraghty at NRO examines the person who portrayed himself one way, and turned out to be another…

now that the dramatic end to the fight over the health-care bill transformed one of the most prominent pro-life Democrats into a man without a country — disdained by national Democrats and pro-choice liberals as a man who nearly derailed health care, and rejected by pro-lifers on both sides of the aisle as a supremely disappointing leader who quit at the last minute…

Duplicity? Naïveté? A failure of nerve? Whatever the reasoning behind Stupak’s unexpected decision, it opened up a question one rarely hears about a nine-term incumbent: Who is this guy?

Good question.

“He’s in a strongly conservative, pro-life district and his only real connection was on cultural issues. But he infuriated the Left on the way to infuriating the Right. It’s hard to see who his base now is. Where he ended up on this issue was a big problem for him, but the way he got there was just incomprehensible.

Kathleen Parker calls it a “fall from grace”.

Ultimately, he was weak and overwhelmed by raw political power. History is no stranger to such moments, but this one needs to be understood for what it was. A deception.

The executive order promising that no federal funds will be used for abortion is utterly useless, and everybody knows it…

Stupak, too, knew that the executive order was merely political cover for him and his pro-life colleagues. He knew it because several members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explained it to him, according to sources. The only way to prevent public funding for abortion was for his amendment to be added to the Senate bill.

Clearly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the president didn’t want that. What they did want was the abortion funding that the Senate bill allowed.

Thus, the health care bill passed because of a mutually understood deception — a pretense masquerading as virtue.

And, as she notes, a lesson in human frailty. What a tragedy if his fall broke the best barricade we had to protect many thousands more frail humans.

The Stupak-Obama deal

At the end of the day, it seemed vote-a-rama was the big political story. But then this came out…

Both sides in the abortion debate came to a rare agreement on Wednesday: The executive order on abortion signed by President Obama, they said, was basically meaningless.

“A transparent political fig leaf,” according to the National Right to Life Committee’s Douglas Johnson.

“A symbolic gesture,” said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards.

We knew this. But on the same day that Obama signed the flimsy executive order (behind closed doors, with no press allowed), this is the final insult.

Richards says the order only “codifies” what’s already in the bill. Although she said she’s pleased women can pay for coverage of abortions on their own, she regrets that a “pro-choice president” signed the order.

Johnson lashed out at Stupak and those who voted for the health care bill, calling them “lawmakers who in the end cared more about pleasing the powerful (House) speaker from San Francisco than their pro-life constituents.”

The White House is looking to move on.

Let them play politics. And let there be consequences.

The day after

Sunday night, Congress ended a dramatically long and intense weekend of backroom wrangling and avoiding the thousands of citizens who descended on Washington to protest the health bill and the majority of Americans who opposed it. So the deal got done, and some news analysts began saying immediately afterward that life in America has just begun to change.

How? Where to begin….

Start with the abortion business. It will expand now, here and abroad. My inbox is filling quickly today with statements and news releases from pro-life groups, faith-based organizations and individuals who have worked to exclude abortion funding from health care legislation.

C-Fam on Obamacare abroad.

Last Thursday State Department deputy secretary Jacob Lew presided at the rollout of a report at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on what they are calling “smart” global health policy… The new agenda admirably puts emphasis on maternal and child health. However…Secretary of State Clinton has made it clear that the Obama maternal and child health agenda includes abortion rights.

The American Life League says what got compromised in the final deal was human life.

“Last night the pro-life movement learned several hard lessons. Foremost among those is that it is never morally acceptable, and often it is not even politically expedient, to compromise human beings’ lives in the hopes of saving some others…

“The eventual passage of the health care bill, with its monumental support of child killing, exposed the foolishness of depending upon politicians to protect the lives of preborn babies.

“The American people need to preemptively take control again by declaring – in state after state across the nation – that a preborn human being is recognized as a person under the laws of their states.

Actually, states rights took a big hit with this legislation. Health care law that’s about to roll out will consolidate tremendous power in the federal government, which is why some 38 or more states are lining up to challenge the bill in the courts. But they’re right about the foolishness of depending on politicians… says Stupak’s decision was ‘unconscionable’.

The Executive Order fix is a band-aid solution that fails to solve the fundamental problems in this bill, and can be repealed at any time, for any reason, by the President or future presidents.  The Order is likely to be challenged by pro-abortion groups, and could be struck down by the courts.

“Regrettably, Rep. Stupak has abandoned those who have stood by him during the recent weeks and months.

“The Catholic Bishops along with and every major pro-life organization oppose this ‘fix.’  We have defended Rep. Stupak for months, but today we stand in protest of his decision.

A decision which CVA believes Stupak will come to deeply regret.

National Right to Life calls it a raw deal.

A lawmaker who votes for this bill is voting to require federal agencies to subsidize and administer health plans that will pay for elective abortion, and voting to undermine longstanding pro-life policies in other ways as well.  Pro-life citizens nationwide know that this is a pro-abortion bill.  Pro-life citizens know, and they will be reminded again and again, which lawmakers deserve their gratitude for voting against this pro-abortion legislation…

The executive order promised by President Obama was issued for political effect.  It changes nothing.  It does not correct any of the serious pro-abortion provisions in the bill.  The president cannot amend a bill by issuing an order, and the federal courts will enforce what the law says.

“The issue is just not that complicated,” says blogger Jay Richards.

There is a “deliberate omission” of Hyde-like restrictions in the Senate bill. Everybody knows this. If the Senate bill really were pro-life, then what possible objection could there have been to adopting the Stupak language (which simply extends the longstanding Hyde Amendment policy to the bill) and gaining a few more votes early on? Why the grueling battle for votes to the very end? Why have pro-choice groups fought so hard to keep the Senate bill free of Stupak language? Why the trouble of President Obama agreeing to issue an executive order limiting federal funding for abortion (which is yet another deception that won’t do anything significant.) All this tells us that the bill simply doesn’t maintain pro-life standards.

Stupak used to know that.

When this went down, House Minority Leader John Boehner gave one last impassioned speech before the vote, and then asked members of the House to at least be accountable to their electorate for their votes.

He asked for a roll call vote to be taken, as opposed to an electronic vote tally, a call [acting Speaker David] Obey denied.

So, here you go. What your representative did in that decisive moment.

Surprise, surprise

Bart Stupak caved, after all. 

His press conference was brief and sounded like it was hastily put together.

Stupak just addressed the media saying, “I am pleased to announce that we have an agreement. With the help of the President and Speaker we have been able to come with an agreement to protect the sanctity of life in Health Care Reform….that there will be no public funding for abortion in this legislation.  We’ve all have stood on principle.”

Stupak went on to say, “Today the President has announced that he will be signing an executive order.  That executive order will be signed after the health care legislation as it refers back to the health care legislation to reinforce that principle and that belief that we all stood on, no public funding for abortion.”

When I heard that in the live press conference, I thought ‘will be signed’? And what does the rest of that sentence really mean?

Stupak seems to be either incredibly trusting of the President, or completely unaware that the President Obama can reverse any executive order he writes.   Executive Orders can also be reversed by legislative action.

As for trusting the president, we do have some notable examples of him reneging on promises. Like the September 9th one to the joint session of Congress (and the nation) that his health care bill will not allow federal funding for abortion (though the Senate version he’s been pushing does). And the one last July to Pope Benedict that he would do whatever he could to reduce abortions, though he’d already reversed the Mexico City Policy that freed up funding for abortions overseas, among other things.

As for trusting the legislative branch of government not to reverse this order at some point, that takes a great leap of faith. But Washington is all about surprises these days.

Wink and nod abortion politics

No matter how things turn out in the fast-moving dealmaking on Capitol Hill to get the Senate health bill passed by the House, this AP story is just some strange reporting.

A Democratic chairman says a leading abortion foe will back President Barack Obama’s health care bill. But the office of Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan says no decision has been made.

Rep. Henry Waxman of California says party leaders have been able to secure the support of Stupak.

Waxman says they were able to win the promise of a “yes” vote on the health care bill by having Obama issue an executive order that reaffirms existing law barring federal dollars for abortion.

Stupak had favored stronger language in the legislation restricting taxpayer money for abortion.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois said lawmakers who favor abortion rights shouldn’t have a problem with the executive order.

So somebody’s clearly not telling the truth here. Surprise…

Abortion genocide: Don’t do it

Suddenly, it seems, abortion is getting some serious, major and long overdue attention. And it’s coming along different fronts…

Of all the many things people and politicians have against the Senate’s (and Obama’s) version of health care legislation, abortion has risen to the front as a (or the) potential final breach. They’re noticing that even across the pond, as the Economist says “It could all come down to abortion.”

That same paper did a cover story last week titled “Gendercide” which highlighted ‘the war on baby girls’. Leaving aside their qualified support of legal abortion, even that newspaper’s editors see the appaling effects of targeted baby deaths in some countries.

China alone stands to have as many unmarried young men—“bare branches”, as they are known—as the entire population of young men in America. In any country rootless young males spell trouble; in Asian societies, where marriage and children are the recognised routes into society, single men are almost like outlaws. Crime rates, bride trafficking, sexual violence, even female suicide rates are all rising and will rise further as the lopsided generations reach their maturity…

It is no exaggeration to call this gendercide. Women are missing in their millions—aborted, killed, neglected to death. In 1990 an Indian economist, Amartya Sen, put the number at 100m; the toll is higher now.

So they set about suggesting changes the world needs to make to prevent such horrific undervaluing of a whole class of human beings.

Why can’t they see the obvious? When we deem an entire class of human beings unworthy of life if their mothers decide against giving birth (or someone forces them to abort), how can anyone make a reasoned and logical argument that some of that class should be more protected?

That’s what some black leaders are asking.

“And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted,”  [Congressman Trent] Franks says. “Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery. And I think, What does it take to get us to wake up?”

A good point, and the right question.

Day Gardner, the president of the National Black Pro-Life Union, says he is right on track.

“Face it America, he’s right. Abortion has exacted a greater toll on blacks than slavery,” she told

“Our country brutally enslaved four million people, denying them their rights, their freedom and many times their lives. Rep. Franks is simply comparing that horrific truth to another horrific truth — which is that abortion has killed more than 17 million black people,” Gardner said.

“Slavery is a terrible stain on the fabric of America that can never be fully washed away,” the black pro-life leader continued. “The stain of abortion is every bit as terrible and even more atrocious than slavery in light of the fact that the victims of abortion are totally helpless–they are unable to run away, unable hide or defend themselves.”

Gardner calls the “devastation of abortion in the black community” a “hard truth” and she says “Franks and other members of Congress stand with us to right this terrible wrong.”

Congressman Bart Stupak and his pro-life bloc in the House are doing all they can.

Healthcare reform turns on abortion

We do have some principled leadership in Congress, after all. Especially the Democrat who refuses to buckle under massive pressure from the White House, Senate and House powerbrokers and most of the big media opinionmakers: Bart Stupak. He’s sending them all into a tailspin.

It’s making for dramatic headlines and re-centering the focus of attention on today’s civil rights movement….the right to life.

A dozen House of Representatives Democrats opposed to abortion are willing to kill President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform plan unless it satisfies their demand for language barring the procedure, Representative Bart Stupak said on Thursday.

“Yes. We’re prepared to take responsibility,” Stupak said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked if he and his 11 Democratic allies were willing to accept the consequences for bringing down healthcare reform over abortion.

“Let’s face it. I want to see healthcare. But we’re not going to bypass the principles of belief that we feel strongly about,” he said.

The Michigan Democrat held up House legislation last year until he was satisfied that its language prevented federal tax dollars from being used to fund abortions.

While others are caving in through compromise deals and other bargains and arm-twisting, Stupak and gang are holding out, thankfully tethered to their moral compass.

This same story quotes Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius assuring that federal funds won’t be spent on abortion. But at this point, given that the Senate version of health care reform is the engine driving the train, that’s just as much a misleading statement (okay, a lie) as Senator Reid’s protestations at the health care summit that Democrats were even thinking about reconciliation and Speaker Pelosi’s protestations at that summit declaring that abortion would be covered in the plans, and President Obama’s claims about nearly all of it.

So most of Mr. Obama’s first year in office has been paralyzed over nothing more than minor regulatory hair-splitting. This is so preposterous that the President can’t possibly believe it.

Congress’s spring break begins on March 29, and Democratic leaders plan on jamming this monster through Congress before then. Americans have to hope that enough rank-and-file Democrats aren’t as deaf to fiscal honesty as this President.

And moral responsibility. At least Bart Stupak is hearing….and speaking….with clarity.

(Note: For anyone in the Chicago region at the end of April, Stupak will be speaking as keynote at the Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast on April 30th, on the role of moral leadership and faithful citizenship in social policies these days. And God only knows how Stupak and his moral holdouts will fare between now and then. Ought to be one interesting moment of truth for everyone involved. Here’s the info.)