Tom Hoopes is Vice President of College Relations and writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He has written for the Register for more than 20 years and was its executive editor for 10. His writing has appeared in First Things’ First Thoughts, National Review Online, Crisis, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside Catholic and Columbia. He has served as press secretary for the Chairman of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee. He and his wife, April, were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine for 5 years. They have nine children.
Bart Stupak faced the defining moment of his career last weekend and, fair or not, he defined himself by it. He had the chance to be a profile in political courage. But he is now the pro-lifer who caved for the paltriest of political cover at the crucial hour.
He voted for a change in the law of our land such that our tax dollars will fund abortion, and got for his betrayal an “executive order,” which is not and will never have the same weight as the law of the land.
Two things this teaches us right away:
1. Sister Carol Keehan was wrong. The sister who earned $856,093 last year as the head of a trade association of hospital conglomerates argued that the bishops were wrong and that the bill doesn’t pay for abortions. As helpful as that would have been to her top-dollar clients, nobody close to the legislation believed it. Stupak and Obama didn’t, apparently.
2. When push comes to shove, pro-life Democrats at the national level (the same isn’t true at the state level) respond to partisan politics more than pro-life principles.
John McCormack at the Weekly Standard does a service by putting together a quick run-down of pro-life and pro-abortion reaction to Stupak’s “executive order.” Pro-lifers are near despair over the situation and pro-abortion groups are using guarded language but are essentially happy with it.
U.S. Rep. Joseph Cao, R-La., who apart from abortion likes the health care bill, certainly isn’t buying the “executive order” fairy tale.
Bart Stupak will find now that this decision will define his political career.
Bart Stupak could have been the guy who stood up to Big Abortion, stood up for mothers badgered by their boyfriends, stood up for children destroyed by their parents, stood up for the majority of Americans who now call themselves pro-life.
But he will now be known as the guy who sold out his pro-life principles, snatched defeat for the unborn from the jaws of victory, and handed the nation’s health care system to the man who promised FOCA would be his top abortion priority as president.
A reader writes this thoughtful reply to what I have written above:
“I was disappointed to read your hurtful column on Monday. Fresh off Sunday readings where Jesus refused to condemn a sinful woman, and asks the same of us, I didn’t think I would read something like this from a Catholic writer.
“First off, I don’t think any of us can begin to understand how gut-wrenching this decision was for Mr. Stupak. Given his strong history of pro-life activity and his life as a Knight of Columbus, I find it hard to believe that he would come to his decision based on anything other than a matter of conscience.
“Secondly, let’s entertain a scenario that may have played out Sunday afternoon that could actually paint Mr. Stupak as a saver of the unborn. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the Democrats already had enough votes to pass the bill before Mr. Stupak announced his support. Imagine how scary the bill would be without the executive order (as weak as we all believe it to be). Mr. Stupak’s decision to support the bill therefore allowed some Democrats whose seats may be in jeopardy in November, and who were reluctant supporters in the first place, to vote ‘no’ knowing that the bill was going to be passed anyway with a slim 219 votes.
“If this is what played out, than Mr. Stupak managed to get a ray of hope (an executive order) for the unborn where there was going to be none, and should be praised for this.
“Now, I am a journalist like yourself, so I know how easy it is for a columnist to go off on some issue and attack an individual or philosophy that they don’t like. But journalists rarely do anything about it other than stain their hands with a few inches of ink, whereas a man like Mr. Stupak is at least trying to make his country a better place.
Barrie, Ontario, Canada