Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pro-Life's Day of Infamy: How Republicans Missed Their Chance to Kill the Bill


Today President Obama signed his health care reform package into law, a package many in the pro-life community believe will lead to federal funding for abortions.

Obama’s health care bill required parliamentary tricks to pass, doing so only after so-called pro-life Democrats agreed to change their votes to ‘yes’ when the president agreed to issue an executive order banning federal funding for abortions. The problem with an executive order is two fold: one, it may not be constitutional as it modifies a bill that has not been fully passed under reconciliation rules, and two, there is nothing to prevent this president or any of his successors from reversing that order.

Needless to say, pro-life Americans feel betrayed and are taking that anger our on pro-life Democrats, led by Rep. Bart Stupak, who they believe caved into political pressure put on them by the progressive left. One Republican member of congress went so far as to scream out “baby killer” while Rep. Stupak was speaking on the house floor.

This day, however, is not the pro-life movement’s day of infamy. Their day of infamy came on November 7, 2009, when the House succeeded in passing their version of health care reform, an act which had a domino affect that gave momentum to the Senate, enabling them to pass their own version, and to the president and Nancy Pelosi, allowing them to force the Senate version of the bill through the House via controversial reconciliation rules.

To understand why November 7, 2009, will go down as the pro-life movement’s day of infamy, you’ll need to understand what exactly was going on in the House that day.

A group of pro-life Democrats were refusing to vote in favor of Pelosi’s health care reform bill unless it contained the amendment proposed proposed by Rep. Stupak that would ban federal funding for abortions. Nancy Pelosi at first refused to even consider this amendment, but when it became clear that there was no possible way she could pass the health care reform without it, she caved and agreed to bring it to the floor for a vote.

By agreeing to consider Stupak’s pro-life amendment Nancy Pelosi unwittingly created the one and only chance Republicans had to kill Obamacare. Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), pro-life himself, realized that if the Stupak amendment were to fail, so too would Obamacare. So, he hatched his plan.

In the Shadegg plan Republican members of the House would vote ‘present’ on the Stupak amendment. This would accomplish two things. First, it would kill Obamacare before it even had a chance to get started. Second, by killing the bill it would also result in the continued prevention of federal funding for abortions.

[Rep. Phill Gingrey] told Weekly Standard that he considered voting present when "some of my most respected colleagues had brought up the possibility of a present vote on the Stupak vote thinking what can we do to stop this bill."[1]

Unfortunately, those in power within the pro-life movement, the ones that have the power to swing pro-life voters and donations away from candidates, were so focused on their single issue that they failed to see the genius of Rep. Shadegg’s plan. Doug Johnson of the NRLC (National Right to Life Committee) sent a letter to members of congress:

As NRLC’s congressional scorecard for the 111th Congress will clearly explain, a vote against the Stupak-Pitts Amendment can only be construed as a position-defining vote in favor of establishing a federal government program that will directly fund abortion on demand, with federal funds, and a second federal program that will provide government subsidies to private insurance plans that cover abortion on demand. NRLC regards this as the most important House roll call on federal funding of abortion since the House last voted directly on the Hyde Amendment in 1997. If you do not wish to go on record in support of creating major new federal programs that will both fund abortions directly and subsidize private abortion coverage, please vote for the Stupak-Pitts Amendment. NRLC will regard a “present” vote as equivalent to a negative vote on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.

“NRLC will regard a ‘present’ vote as equivalent to a negative vote on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.” With that one line the pro-life movement ensured Obamacare would pass.

"If lawmakers who claim the label of 'pro-life' now were to betray past commitments and withhold support from the amendment to remove government funding of abortion from the health care bill, by voting 'present,' resulting in the defeat of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, it would be a day that would live in infamy," stated a letter from the NRLC to members of congress.

“Other pro-life groups informed LifeNews.com that if Republicans killed the Stupak amendment, it would take abortion funding off the table in the 2010 elections.”[2]

Republican members, already fearing primary threats from more conservative opponents, could not afford to lose the NRLC’s endorsement and the campaign funds that their endorsement brings. Like lambs being led to the slaughter, they towed the line and all voted ‘yes’ on the Stupak amendment.

Later that day, the house version of Obamacare sailed through by a vote of 220-215. The rest, as they say, is history.

With Obamacare now law, there is nothing the NRLC or other pro-life organizations can do to reverse the damage they caused on November 7, 2009, a day that will forever be remembered as Pro-Life’s Day or Infamy.

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