Health care: So who is cheering?

As you would expect, my morning email was full of angry press statements from conservative groups -- with a heavy evangelical-right flavor. Most of the emails attacked Rep. Bart Stupak and his circle of Democrats who, in the end, agreed to back the U.S. Senate health-care reform legislation, after President Barack Obama agreed to issue an executive order clarifying that this bill would not end the ban on federal funding of abortions. Of course, it was the stance of pro-abortion-rights activists that this bill already honored that ban, while the leaders of mainstream anti-abortion groups disagreed. That was the issue all along.

However, it must be noted that these press releases, as a rule, came from groups that opposed this health-care reform bill -- period. I have yet to see a major, mainstream news report that quoted the specific objections of pro-life groups that backed health-care reform, with some editing on the legislation linked to life issues.

For example, did anyone see this quote in a major story?

Health care reform must protect life and conscience, not threaten them. The Senate bill extends abortion coverage, allows federal funds to pay for elective abortions (for example, through a new appropriation for services at Community Health Centers that bypasses the Hyde amendment), and denies adequate conscience protection to individuals and institutions. Needed health care reform must keep in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy that neither elective abortion nor plans which include elective abortion can be paid for with federal funds.

That, of course, was language drawn from a last-minute press statement from the U.S. Catholic bishops. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the bishops were left out of the final, climactic stories before the vote.

Once again: It was not surprising that people who opposed this health-care reform effort (think GOP) stood against it to the end. The news, all along, was rooted in conflicts between Democrats who wanted to see the bill pass. We now know that this bill could not have passed without Stupak & Co.

I know that we avoid commentary pieces, but I offer this link to a piece by CBN's David Brody because it does not appear to have been written in anger, as was the case in most of the niche, conservative-news statements that I have received in the past 12 hours or so. Instead, Brody seems to have grasped one of the central facts of the story -- which is that Stupak trusted Obama, in large part, because they both wanted the bill to pass. Here's Brody:

Look, the way Bart Stupak sees it he is a hero. He thinks that he has preserved the ban on federal funding of abortion and thinks his vote will bring hope to the 30 million people or so that supposedly will be insured under the House bill. ... Some will call Stupak a big tease. Others will call him a sell out or just plain weak for bowing to the pressure put on him from Democratic leadership. Maybe others will just think he's plain dumb for believing that an Executive Order will make everything perfect. But I think all of that name calling misses the point.

Here's the point: Let's stop pretending that Bart Stupak is some sort of CONSERVATIVE pro-lifer. He's not. He's a Democrat who is OK with this LIBERAL healthcare bill. So therefore his mindset is not to try to kill this bill. He's working overtime to save it, thus he's willing to discuss ALL alternatives when it comes to his principled conviction on abortion.

I am sure that Stupak and others who back the compromise will bristle at that language. However, I simply wanted to note that Brody gets this fact down -- the battle was between Democrats who wanted to see health-care reform reach the president's desk.

This brings me back to that bishops-shaped hole in the mainstream coverage.

At this point, mainstream readers still do not know what the fighting was all about, in terms of hearing the key voices voice their concerns in their own language. The basic Washington Post report on the Sunday-night drama simply offers this:

The last issue resolved before the vote was the long-standing question of whether federal subsidies in the bill could be used to pay for insurance policies that provide abortion services. A handful of antiabortion Democrats feared that the Senate language didn't provide adequate restrictions, and they refused to vote for the legislation unless the firewall was made more secure.

Democrats who support abortion rights refused to accept any legislative changes. But on Tuesday, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), the leader of the antiabortion faction, ran into White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at the House gym, and Emanuel offered a compromise: Obama could issue an executive order clarifying the ban on federal funding of abortion. Stupak and six colleagues eventually agreed to the executive order, which was announced by the White House on Sunday afternoon and is scheduled to be issued after the bill is signed.

"I've always supported health-care reform," Stupak told reporters, after concluding marathon talks with party leaders. But he added, "There was a principle that meant more to us than anything, and that was the sanctity of life."

So, was Stupak naive? Was he facing political threats that have not been made public? And what, pray tell, is the difference between Stupak's view of the Senate bill and that of the U.S. Catholic bishops? What are the facts in the legislation on which they disagree?

Look at the three camps that wanted health care, right now. It's clear that abortion-rights activists believe they have something to cheer about, because Stupak's language was defeated. As the New York Times reported:

Mr. Stupak described the order as a significant guarantee that would "protect the sanctity of life in health care reform." But supporters of abortion rights -- and some opponents -- said the order merely reaffirmed what was in the bill.

Thus, Stupak is cheering, after his tense compromise. But the bishops are not cheering. There's a story in there.

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