It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since the passage of the President’s health care plan! While many experts will write on how the health care law is hurting the economy, families, the unborn, medical device manufacturers, businesses, the elderly, etc. etc. I’d rather turn my attention to a victim not many are talking about: pro-life bi-partisanship on the federal level.
Historically the Democratic Party has been pro-abortion since the Carter Administration and became even more so in response to the strong pro-life views of President Ronald Reagan. Despite this fealty to abortion pro-life views were tolerated in the Democratic Party, in part due to their large Catholic constituency. This tolerance was limited of course. If you wanted to run for higher office you needed to renounce your pro-life views (believe it or not at one time Jesse Jackson and Senators Al Gore and Joe Biden were pro-life, until they decided to run for President).
Further evidence of this limited tolerance was one of the strongest pro-life Governors of the 1980s and 1990s was a Democrat, Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey. Governor Casey was best known for challenging his Party to be more tolerant of pro-life views and also in legally advocating for the unborn in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a major Supreme Court case that upheld almost all the prohibitions on abortion that Governor Casey had signed into law. Despite this (or more likely because of this) the popular governor was barred repeatedly from speaking at Democratic Party conventions. Around this same time a newly elected President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary were expertly putting up smoke screens on the issue of abortion – arguing that it should be “safe, legal and rare” while implementing policies that solidified pro-abortion policies within the federal government. The Clintons increased ties between the Democratic Party and radical pro-abortion groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood, including increasing taxpayer funds to such groups who in turn increased campaign donations to Democrats.
This smoke screen approach to hide radical pro-abortion policies became the norm for some Democrats such as Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and, the future President Barack Obama.. However a number of strong pro-life Democrats also emerged such as Reps. Bart Stupak (R-Mich.), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Colin Peterson (D-Minn.), Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Penn.) Nick Rahall (D-WV), Alan Mollohan (D-WV) Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebr.).
Along comes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), “Obamacare” introduced as a bill in November, 2009, and passed in March, 2010. The bill rolled back decades of abortion policy, allowing taxpayer subsidies for policies with elective abortion under a system of accounting gimmicks, and charging an “abortion surcharge” for anyone enrolled in a federally subsidized health care plan that covers elective abortions – regardless of if the enrollee agrees with the policy or not.
As passed five years ago today Obamacare also lacks comprehensive abortion funding restrictions, instead relying on a powerless Executive Order that reiterates the very accounting gimmicks that allow for taxpayer funding of abortions. Legal precedent has shown that Executive Orders cannot trump the law. Additionally Obamacare created slush funds for pro-abortion groups; opened the door for President Obama’s mandate that forces people (regardless of their views on abortion) to pay for abortifacients and also uses taxpayer funds to pay for abortions in health care plans for federal employees.
Prior to the vote on Obamacare the Democrats listed above were reliable on standing up for pro-life principles, but following the vote only Reps. McIntyre, Lipinski and Peterson remained loyal to the pro-life cause.As of November 2014 only Dan Lipinski remains in Congress.
During the passage of Obamacare the betrayal of Rep. Bart Stupak is well known. Long a champion for adding pro-life protections into the health care legislation he folded under pressure from the White House and pro-abortion groups (closely tied financially to each other) to accept a health care law with no pro-life protections other than a smoke screen scheme devised by once pro-life Senator Ben Nelson.
Not well known during the Obamacare debate is that pro-life Republicans faced a challenge to their pro-life views during the Obamacare debate as well. Prior to the first vote in the House on that chamber’s draft of health care legislation a group of fiscally conservative minded folks sought to use the pro-life movement as a political tool against the health care law. On the day of the debate representatives from a fiscal conservative group started falsely telling Republicans that pro-life groups, including the one I worked for at the time, wanted to sink the amendment that would have put pro-life protections into the health care law, also known as the Stupak Amendment. Luckily we were able to set the record straight that day – knowing that the result of Republicans voting against a clearly pro-life amendment would have divided the pro-life movement and cause pro-life Democrats to rightly no longer trust Republicans on the issue of the protecting the unborn. Instead pro-life Republicans voted on principle for the pro-life amendment, which in turn gave anti-Obamacare forces months more to prepare grassroots for the continuing fight.
Ironically it was Rep. Stupak’s later voting against a similar version of his own amendment that sealed his betrayal of pro-life principles and allowed for the passage of the pro-abortion Obamacare legislation.
That betrayal was not the end of the devastation though. In the election following the passage of Obamacare many of the Democrats who were once pro-life yet voted for Obamacare lost their elections. These losses, in large part, were brought about by the work of the Susan B. Anthony List. One now former congressional member, Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) attempted to sue SBA List for being the cause of his loss of employment. In his attempt he was aided by the group Democrats for Life (who also supported the final pro-abortion version of Obamacare) who reportedly revealed private e-mail exchanges to help target pro-life individuals, including myself. These actions still taint the once proud organization today and make it untrustworthy in the eyes of many in the pro-life movement.
Obamacare changed the face of Congress in many ways, and not just with the defeat of once pro-life Democrats. As Family Research Council recently pointed out, Catholics, seen as a strong force among pro-lifers, are also taking a second look at their traditional support for Democrats:
Catholics are bolting from the Democratic Party so rapidly that Pew Research Center now says 53% of white Catholics now favor the GOP (compared to the Democrats’ 39%), the “largest point spread in the history of the Pew poll.” And the evidence is sitting in Congress. When President Obama was swept into office, there were 98 Catholic Democrats in the House and 37 Catholic Republicans. Barely six years later, there are two times as many Catholic Republicans in the House (69) and 68 Democrats.
To end on a more positive note, while it is true the Democratic Party on the federal level suffered, there is clear sign of a resurgence of pro-life Democrats on the local levels. The numerous pieces of pro-life legislation flooding the states are being done with bi-partisan support. In addition some Senate Democrats are becoming more emboldened in a Senate led by pro-life Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as opposed to the pro-abortion former Majority Leader (and former pro-life Democrat) Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Self-avowed pro-life Democrats such as Joe Manchin (D-WV) and even Bob Casey (D-Penn.) (son of the aforementioned Governor who voted for the pro-abortion version of Obamacare) are currently stepping up to the plate to defend barring of taxpayer funds in the human trafficking bill. All of this is a good thing – pro-life policies should not be a partisan issue. Abortion kills regardless of political party.