Pro-lifers nearly unanimous in dismay
WASHINGTON (BP)--The nation's leading pro-life groups were nearly unanimous in opposing the agreement reached Sunday between Rep. Bart Stupak and the White House that paved the way for House passage of the health care bill.
House Democratic leaders were still short the necessary 216 votes Sunday afternoon until Stupak, D.-Mich., and a handful of pro-life Democrats said they would vote for the bill after President Obama had pledged to sign an executive order that supposedly would take care of some pro-life concerns. During a press conference, Stupak said the executive order -- which will be signed after Obama signs the bill into law -- would ensure that federal dollars don't go toward funding elective abortions at community health centers. Stupak also said the order would strengthen conscience protections for health care workers.
But the nation's pro-life leaders mostly disagreed. Following is a sampling of their comments:
-- Richard Land, president, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:
"Pro-lifers across the country are rightly both chagrined and disillusioned with Rep. Bart Stupak's cave-in on protecting unborn lives in the ObamaCare legislation that just passed," Land said. "His pathetic defense that President Obama's executive order sufficiently protects the unborn in this new legislation strains credulity. It's equivalent to saying that a bikini can cover the fat lady in the circus. The executive order is insufficient and does not carry the force of law equivalent to the legislation. Pro-lifers are justified in their outrage, since it was apparently Stupak and his Democratic pro-life coalition that provided the margin of victory for ObamaCare."
-- National Right to Life Committee:
"The executive order promised by President Obama was issued for political effect," National Right to Life said. "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 order does not truly correct any of the seven objectionable pro-abortion provisions described in NRLC's March 19 letter to the House of Representatives."
-- Kristen Day, executive director, Democrats for Life of America:
"We applaud President Obama for his bold leadership in agreeing to an Executive Order that bans taxpayer-funded abortions in the health care reform bill that passed the House," Day said. ...
"We are proud to support this historic health care legislation. President Obama's Executive Order shows that when we work towards common ground in Washington, we can do the people's business and end the gridlock. By working with House leaders and the White House, DFLA shows how pro-life Democrats are a key and growing constituency.
"Hubert H. Humphrey said it best: '... the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.'"
-- Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council Action:
"Passage of this partisan government takeover of health care with all of its Medicare cuts, tax increases, a continued marriage penalty, individual mandates, and abortion funding shows the extreme leftist orientation of this Congress," Perkins said.
"The American people, regardless of their view of its legality, should not be forced to pay for someone's abortion. Those who voted for this legislation cannot legitimately claim to be even neutral on the issue of abortion. This legislation accomplishes this abortion mandate in spades.
"Some Democratic Members who have had good pro-life records in the past turned away from those principles [March 21], instead putting their trust in the most pro-abortion President in history and his equally pro-abortion Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius. The President knows his promise would not have the weight of statutory law and is not worth the paper it was printed on. Any order from the President will likely quickly fall in the U.S. courts, if not reversed by Barack Obama himself.
"The President's disregard for the unborn is no surprise. It is the betrayal from those who have fought for life within his party that is the biggest shock. Especially Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) who had fought so valiantly in this debate, but folded when it really mattered.
"FRC Action will seek to defeat many of the Members from majority pro-life districts who voted wrong [March 21], and they will have plenty of free time to realize the grave mistake they have committed on the unborn today with their vote."
-- Marjorie Dannenfelser, president, Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund:
"This Wednesday night (March 24) is our third annual Campaign for Life Gala, where we were planning to honor Congressman Stupak for his efforts to keep abortion-funding out of health care reform- -- we will no longer be doing so," Dannenfelser said. "By accepting this deal from the most pro-abortion President in American history, Stupak has not only failed to stand strong for unborn children, but also for his constituents and pro-life voters across the country.
"Let me be clear: any representative, including Rep. Stupak, who votes for this healthcare bill can no longer call themselves 'pro-life.' ... The executive order on abortion funding does absolutely nothing to fix the problems presented by the health care reform bill that the House will vote on this evening. The very idea should offend all pro-life Members of Congress. An executive order can be rescinded at any time at the President's whim, and the courts could and have a history of trumping executive orders. Most importantly, pro-abortion Representatives have admitted the executive order is meaningless."
-- Charmaine Yoest, president & CEO, Americans United for Life Action:
"This deal to pass the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade is a tragedy for America," Yoest said. "We believe that Mr. Stupak's choice to succumb to the intense pressure of the last week has resulted in his endorsement of a charade that does not even begin to address the anti-life provisions in this legislation. The American people do not support taxpayer funding of abortion and Speaker Pelosi and the President have undermined representative democracy by working to pass this legislation with this unprecedented contortion of the legislative process."
-- Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America:
"Our members know that under the Constitution of this country, Congress makes the laws of the country and not the President," Nance said. "This executive order is not worth the paper on which it's written. An executive order from the President can be just as easily undone. The fact that Rep. Stupak says this is a strong statement by President Obama outlining his intent is utterly astounding especially since President Obama is the one who ensured that the Stupak-Pitts pro-life amendment was not included in the Senate bill."
-- David Stevens, CEO, Christian Medical Association:
"National polling reveals that 95 percent of faith-based physicians say they will be forced to leave medicine without conscience protections. Since the bill passed by Congress does not include strong conscience protections, it opens the door to an increase in discrimination against physicians, hospitals and clinics that decline to participate in abortion and other morally controversial procedures.
"The last-minute deal for an Executive Order relating to abortion and conscience -- the deal that changed the 'No' votes of pro-life Democrats to 'Yes' -- was like trading a birthright for a mess of pottage. The executive order, which added no additional conscience protections whatsoever, can be changed tomorrow by this President, or later by any subsequent President, with the stroke of a pen. The healthcare bill, meanwhile, becomes permanent law."
-- Day Gardner, president, National Black Pro-Life Union:
"Many Americans put so much trust in Rep. Bart Stupak and the other Democrats who stood with him when they promised that they would stand firm -- no matter what -- to ensure there would be NO taxpayer funded abortion," Gardner said. "They caved! A very weary looking Stupak announced that he had changed from No to Yes.
"Don't you get it, Mr. Stupak? President Obama is a staunch abortion supporter! He doesn't care about the 50 million children (including 17 million black babies) that have been butchered by abortionists since 1973. He is not going to give or 'issue' anything of value. He will say whatever it takes to get this horrible bill passed including issuing an Executive Order to do so.... I am truly saddened. Just a few days ago, I saw Bart Stupak as a steadfast warrior--a leader who stood on conviction and principles of everything just and righteous -- but in an instant with a yes vote, he is demolished in my mind -- becoming nothing but cloud of dust."
Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press.