Pro-life leaders around the country reacted strongly Sunday to the news that Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., has cut a deal with President Obama and would vote for Democratic healthcare reforms.
Leaders of various pro-life communities warned that, despite assurances from the president, taxpayer dollars could still wind up being used to pay for abortions.
On Sunday afternoon, it appeared that Stupak, a moderate Democrat who had opposed the reform legislation on the grounds that it would lead to public funding of abortions, had the votes needed to torpedo Obamacare.
In a statement to the media at 4:10 Sunday afternoon, Stupak announced that a presidential promise in the form of an executive order, stating public funds would not be used in abortions and that “conscientious objectors” such as Catholic healthcare institutions would not be forced to conduct abortions, had addressed his concerns.
Stupak then went on to tout the bill’s benefits.
“The real victory here, or the real winner, is really the American people,” he said. “Thirty-one million Americans will have health insurance. We’ll no longer be able to rescind insurance policies on the whim of the insurance companies, pre-existing injuries will no longer disqualify you from coverage, your college kids will be able to stay on your policy longer, there will no lifetime caps, there will be no need for Americans to go into bankruptcy because of healthcare.”
GOP Rep. Mike Pence blasted the executive order, calling Obama “the most pro-abortion American president in American history.” He pointed out one obvious shortcoming of an executive order: It can be rescinded at will by a future president, or even by President Obama himself if he later changes his mind.
Pro-life advocates are especially skittish about relying on President Obama’s executive order, considering that one action he took early in his presidency was to revoke the Mexico City Policy, an executive order that prevented federal tax dollars to support international organizations that provide abortions abroad.
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of the Americans United for Life (AUL), released a statement Sunday afternoon insisting that the president’s executive order will not prevent the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars for abortions.
She stated: “The AUL legal team has concluded that an executive order is not an adequate fix to mitigate the Senate bill’s establishment of taxpayer-funded abortion. For example, an executive order cannot prevent insurance companies that pay for abortions in the exchanges from receiving federal subsidies.”
Yoest added: “This fact, coupled with the Administration’s repeated endorsement of the pro-abortion lobby’s agenda, force any reasonable person to conclude that this bill will clearly create the largest expansion of
William Saunders, AUL’s senior vice president for legal affairs, penned an op-ed piece in The Washington Examiner on Sunday that raised legal concerns as well. He said the Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that a presidential executive order cannot be used to overrule congressional legislation.
“While a carefully worded executive order might be able to take care of some of the mandate concerns, it cannot correct all of the abortion-related problems with the bill,” Saunders wrote. “A statute cannot be undone by an executive order or regulation. For example, an executive order cannot prevent insurance plans that pay for abortions and participate in the newly-created exchanges from receiving federal subsidies, because this allowance is explicitly written in the bill.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List organization, released a statement Sunday afternoon calling the executive order “offensive.”
“The very idea is a slap in the face to the pro-life movement and should be offensive to all pro-life members of Congress. An executive order can be rescinded at any time at the president’s whim. The courts could and have a history of trumping executive orders,” she stated.
In one sense, it struck observers as remarkable that the president would issue the order, given that both the administration and Democratic leaders have maintained throughout the debate that the Senate bill did not impact the federal prohibition on the expenditure of taxpayer dollars for abortion.
The executive order now appears to acknowledge that was not the case.
Part of the order reads: “Following the recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“the Act”), it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding Federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment.”
Pence called the executive order a “tacit admission” that the bill’s language in fact does provide for public funding of abortion.
Immediately following Stupak’s announcement, former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder speculated on Fox News that given the shortcomings of executive orders when applied to congressional legislation, Stupak might have had other, less public reasons for his about face.
“Who knows?” Wilder said. “…We’re sitting in a spectacular city where some pretty spectacular things have been happening lately.”
Stupak’s reversal is certain to make him the improbable darling of liberal advocacy groups who wanted healthcare reform. He will also now be the focus of opposition from the political forces that see ObamaCare as an example of dangerous federal intrusion into the right to life and the liberties of everyday Americans.
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