Putting Aside No Hidden Magenta

April 4, 2011

Well, this is sad.  For almost a year and a half I have been interacting with those of you who visit this blog.  Many good things have come of it, but I think it is now time to put it aside.  The pressures of other time commitments and being a pre-tenure faculty member, and contributing for the new Catholic Moral Theology website, means that I can’t really do justice to this blog.

However, please visit catholicmoraltheology.com quite often as I’ll be holding up the magenta flag over there.

Thanks once again for everyone’s interest and support.  I’ve met a lot of great people and made a lot of great connections that I otherwise would not have.  I will continue to cherish those.



Outrage: ‘Pro-Life’ Old Guard Attempts to Strangle the Pro-Life Democrat Movement in its Crib

April 22, 2010

Yesterday I blogged about the entrenched, old-guard pro-choice interests freaking out about the new magenta movement which combines abortion with other social justice issues, but today I read that the same thing is happening with old-guard pro-lifers.  Groups claiming to be ‘pro-life’ are now showing their true colors:

Anti-abortion groups are poised to launch a multimillion-dollar offensive against a collection of former allies — House Democrats who also oppose abortion — in an effort to discredit their credibility with anti-abortion voters and oust them from office.

Four separate campaigns are in the works, aimed at anti-abortion House Democrats who voted for the health care bill and designed around the notion that those Democrats signed on to legislation that lacked restrictions ensuring that federal funds would not be spent to provide coverage for abortions.

Some of the targeted members — largely, though not exclusively, vulnerable and junior Democrats — voted for the bill after Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) cut a deal with the White House that President Barack Obama would sign an executive order ensuring that the bill would not provide such funding.

This week, the Family Research Council Action political action committee announced that it would spend $500,000 targeting 20 House Democrats — many of them freshmen from districts with a high concentration of voters who oppose abortion.

This despite the the fact that:

Some in the anti-abortion movement conceded that attacking their longtime Democratic collaborators — who have a small but influential role within the House majority — hasn’t been easy.

McClusky, for his part, acknowledged that in taking on Mollohan, a longtime ally who holds a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, the anti-abortion movement risked alienating a friend.

“The last thing we want to do is take out an Appropriations Committee member who was on our side,” said McClusky. “And the last thing we want to do is to take out a Democrat on our side.”

Ya think?

That they still see some kind of essential link between their movement and that of the Republican party not only reveals where the old-guard pro-lifers get butter for their bread, but it also where their true loyalties lie.  Rather than being authentically pro-life, they are more fundamentally socially conservative.  And their idolatry with regard to outdated political categories means that abortion will continue to exploit the most vulnerable persons in our society: our prenatal children and their mothers.  And especially the poor.

Simply an outrage.

Pro-Life Hero Bart Stupak to Forego a 10th Term

April 9, 2010

Democrat, and pro-life warrior, Bart Stupak has finally had enough.  Because his pro-life views led him to push for dramatic new restrictions on abortion funding (and dramatically more support for pregnant women), along with getting 31 million vulnerable people health insurance, he was facing both a primary challenge from the ‘liberal’ side and tea party fire from the ‘conservative’ side.  All of this has caused him to do something he had been contemplating for awhile: retire.

The full effect the pro-life assault he led from the heart of the democratic party–connecting the issues of respect for the dignity of the vulnerable human fetus with respect for those vulnerable persons without health care–will take generations to measure.   It goes far beyond the substantial legislative victories he helped win; he almost single-handedly put a magenta consistent-ethic-of-life argument out there in the mainstream media for all to see.  He forced millions to confront the intellectual incoherency of a position which picks and chooses which vulnerable populations deserve government protection.  The movement he created will force millions more to do the same.

God bless you Bart.  You’ve earned your rest.

Health Care Reform: A Pro-Choice Victory?

April 1, 2010

There has been a lot of talk from conservatives, claiming to be pro-life, that health care reform is a pro-choice victory.  I’ve already outlined at length on this blog how this is false and that such persons were almost always against the bill regardless of what abortion language was used.  (What a shame that they used pro-life considerations as a pawn in a battle over something else.  But what else is new, right?)

But now that health care reform has passed, the disaffected pro-abortion rights crowd is making their displeasure that much more public. The whole article from ‘The Nation’ is worth reading, but here are some excerpts:

The months of debate and politicking around the healthcare overhaul provided a glimpse of the political strength of the prochoice movement that hasn’t been possible for years. The picture that emerged wasn’t pretty, as supporters of choice found that they don’t have the influence many assumed they did. Almost as soon as the reform process began, abortion rights became a bargaining chip. And after the frenzied horse-trading that finally produced a law, women across the country were left with less access to the procedure and a seriously weakened power base from which to protect and advocate for abortion rights.  “It’s an enormous setback,” says Laurie Rubiner, vice president for public policy for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

In order to win the support of antichoice Democrats and save the bill, the Obama administration embraced the principle of Hyde, signing into law a bill that, in the words of Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, “goes far beyond current law by placing unreasonable burdens on those who want to either offer or purchase private health insurance coverage for abortion.” Desperate to keep healthcare reform alive, even prochoice groups found themselves defending the public-funding ban they so despised. “The most damaging thing about healthcare reform is that even our prochoice leadership has been, through no fault of their own, reinforcing Hyde,” says Laura MacCleery, director of government relations and communications for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The compromise on abortion coverage that became law was only slightly less odious than the Stupak Amendment, which, to the horror of prochoicers, passed the House in a 240-194 vote on November 7, and would have prevented any health plan that receives federal money from paying for abortions. Politically, the Stupak vote laid bare the fact that there simply aren’t enough people willing to go to bat for abortion in Congress. The resounding vote count, coming late on a Saturday evening after hours of back-room scheming, was no surprise to Washington insiders on both sides of the issue. They already knew what would soon become plain to everyone else: a Democratic majority is not the same as a prochoice majority.

What a remarkable statement!   And for those of you who think the language of the Senate bill is ‘pro-abortion’ (full disclosure: I plead guilty to having a misinformed opinion about it at first), please take a look at this reaction:

As the final vote neared, prochoice Senators Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray worked hard to keep Stupak-like language completely banning abortion coverage out of the bill, but they couldn’t even make a show of being able to stop Nelson. Around this time, Scott Brown had won the special election in Massachusetts, dispensing with the Democrats’ supermajority and putting the fate of healthcare reform in serious jeopardy. Though the major advocacy groups raised strong objections to the Nelson language–Planned Parenthood called it “offensive,” NARAL Pro-Choice America called it “outrageous” and “unacceptable”–neither advised voting against the bill.

Now, of course, the Nelson Amendment is law. And unless it is mitigated or eliminated through the regulatory process (a possibility that policy experts and lawyers are delving into), it will definitely create hassles for both women and insurers and will probably result in some health plans dropping abortion coverage altogether. Politically, it will likely create a new platform for antiabortion groups, which are expected to push state legislators to ban abortion coverage offered in their state-level exchanges (existing policies outside the exchanges would not be affected).

And, yes, the key now is where we all go from here.  Some in the pro-abortion rights crowd hope that, “The real policy setbacks of healthcare reform could also serve as the wake-up call for women that prochoicers need.”  But the pro-lifer who still thinks that the health care reform bill was a pro-choice victory, and that its passage is somehow evidence that they don’t need ‘fake’ or ‘insincere’ Democrat pro-lifers like Bart Stupak, needs a wake up call of their own.  This country has gotten more liberal even as it has gotten more pro-life.  The big tent approach to the pro-life movement is working.  Let’s continue to press forward together.

And So it Begins: Secular Media Picks Up on the Pro-Life Democrat Movement

March 24, 2010

Finally, the secular media is starting to take notice:

he Democrat who helped House leaders secure the last few votes needed to pass landmark health care legislation might not have been treated so solicitously at the party’s convention the year he was elected to Congress.

In 1992, when Bart Stupak was running for his first term in Michigan’s 1st Congressional District, Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey Sr. was denied a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention in New York. Casey was the namesake for a pivotal U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld a state’s right to restrict abortions. He accused the Clinton-Gore campaign of excluding him because of his staunchly anti-abortion views.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey Sr. was denied a speaking slot at the 1992 Democratic National Convention in New York. He said he was excluded because of his anti-abortion views.

Two years later, Democrats lost control of the House after 40 years in power.

On Sunday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, an abortion-rights supporter, signed a last-minute deal with Stupak and other anti-abortion-rights Democrats to push the bill past the goal line. It came after pro-choice President Barack Obama agreed to issue an executive order declaring that restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion will remain unchanged.

Public opinion among Democrats remains strongly in favor of abortion rights. Yet a solid, and consistent, third of self-described Democrats say they oppose abortion on demand.

A third!  Clearly, the times they-are-a-changin’:

There was no clearer signal of changing times than the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver, where Casey’s son, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr., was given a prominent speaking slot. He acknowledged disagreeing with Obama on abortion but lauded the presidential candidate’s “respect” for those who opposed abortion on moral grounds.

Casey and Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, another anti-abortion Democrat, helped draft the abortion language in the Senate bill. Stupak dismissed that as weaker than his own “Stupak amendment” and tried to rework the Senate bill to fit the House version.

That angered abortion-rights Democrats, prompting threats to withhold their votes if Stupak got his way.

“We’re not happy with the Nelson language. We’re not happy that this president has done an executive order,” Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a leader of the abortion-rights caucus, told AOL News. “But we understand what it was going to take in order to pass this bill.”

But it wasn’t just the extremists on the left that weren’t happy with the pro-life dems:

Texas Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer called out “baby killer” on the House floor during Stupak’s speech. Neugebauer later apologized, but anti-abortion groups were livid. One rescinded an award to Stupak. Others vowed to punish him and his allies in November as part of a wider effort to repeal the whole health plan.

“He made a very deliberate decision to sell out the pro-life movement,” said Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life. “It was a betrayal of historic proportions.”

Angering both the left and the right may be a good thing for Democrats.


A Pro-Life Victory

March 22, 2010

The passage of health care reform (something which, incidentally, I don’t think I’ve fully processed yet) is, on multiple levels, a pro-life victory.   The dozens of millions of vulnerable persons who have little to no hope in their illness will be brought into the community of persons provided for by our health care system.  It doesn’t get more pro-life than that.

And mostly due to the heroic efforts of pro-life democrats like Bart Stupak this bill is a pro-life victory on the abortion front as well.  As I’ve mentioned several times before on this blog, even the original House bill (which the US Bishops supported) funded abortions, so what was left was jockeying for political and legislative points to make it as baby-friendly as possible.   What the pro-lifers got out of this battle was simply extraordinary: not only the Senate bill’s abortion language (which was actually not bad at all), but a public executive order–full of pro-life language stigmatizing abortion as something other than ‘normal’ health care–that has not only powerful symbolic force but also the bite of actual public policy:

The fact is, this is a very big deal.  Although the Hyde Amendment is repeatedly renewed, it is not a law on the books per se.  It must be renewed each year as part of the budget.  This means that every year we have the opportunity to get rid of it (although we have as yet been unsuccessful).  An executive order, in contrast, would put these provisions on the books until it is rescinded.  It is much harder to rescind an executive order than to change language that must be inserted in the budget yearly.  Really, what president would stick his neck out for the 1/3 of women who will need abortions?  If we are to be guided by history, nobody.

What the whole health care reform process symbolized and demonstrated is a larger movement away from our old categories and toward a consistent ethic of life.  Those on the extremes–who either (1) want to see abortion treated similarly to any other kind of medical procedure, or (2) make anti-abortion arguments while rejecting broader concern for the vulnerable (characterized perfectly by the republican who called Bart Stupak a ‘baby killer’ on the House floor yesterday)–are being pushed to the margins.

The complex, magenta reality is finally starting to push through.  And it’s about time.

Report: Stupak Onboard

March 21, 2010

According to MSNBC:

“Many of these Democratic leaders are now ensconced in Speaker Pelosi’s office. They think they have an agreement with Bart Stupak. Remember, he was here at the White House very late last night trying to work out language for an executive order to clarify and affirm the president’s position with regard to abortion language… They think they have the Stupak 8, they think they have the language.ththey are ironing out the language. We expect to hear from Bart Stupak at some point today, either on the floor in the form of a colloquy with other members, a formalized setting in stone of the agreement that they had, but right now we are told that they are looking over the language, making sure everybody reads it the same way, that everybody’s happy… If in fact they get these 8… that would definitely, by all accounts, put them over the top.”


Done deal.  Stupak is giving his press conference right now.  Here are some of the details according to Politico:

The White House and anti-abortion Democrats have reached an agreement to defusethe controversy over abortion in the health reform bill – planning a series of steps that will secure the support of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and other Democrats to give party leaders the votes they need to pass reform, sources tell POLITICO.

Under the agreement, President Barack Obama would sign an executive order ensuring that no federal funding will go to pay for abortion under the health reform plans. In addition, Stupak will get to state his concerns about abortion funding in the bill during a colloquy on the House floor during the debate.

Pelosi’s Moment of Truth

March 20, 2010

I’ve been highlighting the choice that democrats, largely in the person of Nancy Pelosi, have to make in the health care debate: will she sell out to abortion-rights extremists who want to see abortion like any other kind of health care and risk killing health care reform?

Well, it looks as if the President and Pelosi had worked out a deal to give Stupak a manager’s amendment to get his preferred language…and it was likely to pass given republican support.  However, this is what appears to have happened:

The publication of the amendment triggered a flurry of activity within the pro-choice community, who began hammering their own leadership, who in turn put pressure on members of the pro-choice caucus as well as Pelosi herself. Although NARAL’s Nancy Keenan had not planned to oppose the measure, outrage from within her own ranks caused her to speak out.

According to the source (and with no small amount of irony), “Nancy Pelosi finally grew balls.”

Pelosi had wanted the pro-choice caucus to accept a deal whereby after the House voted to pass the health care bill with the Senate’s Nelson language, Stupak would get a stand-alone vote that could pass with the help of anti-choice Republicans.

Members of the pro-choice caucus felt that Nancy had “sold us out,” according to one member. “She is just going along with whatever the boys in the White House tell her to do.”

This sell out to pro-abortion rights extremists might be the death knell of health care reform:

As Dave Dayen notes in his whip count, even if Pelosi gets every other uncommitted vote, she still needs to crack the Stupak block to get to 216.

Abortion and Health Care Reform: Wading Through the Complexity

March 6, 2010

Like most conflicts that have very smart people on multiple sides of the argument, the debate over abortion and health care reform is complicated.  But here is one thing we now know: the final act of the health care debate will come down to how this argument plays out.  Indeed, Politico reported yesterday that Nancy Pelosi has invited several woman’s groups to a strategy meeting to figure out how to approach the very real final problem they face: overcoming the twelve+ pro-life democrats who, though they voted for the House bill, are not expected to vote for the Senate bill.

But those who wish to see the strongest language possible prohibiting our money from going to subsidize abortions need to be honest about something.  Many of the premiums we pay into our own private health care insurance company go to pay for others’ abortions.  Many of the taxes we pay go to state medicaid programs which cover abortions.  Indeed the Roman Catholic Church, which considers abortion even in the case of rape to be an intrinsic evil, strongly supports the House health care reform bill–a bill which uses taxpayer money to subsidize abortion in the case of rape.  What we need to be honest about, then, is that this is not some ultra-principled, never-say-die, fight.  This is an important political calculation.  The U.S. Bishops, along with many of those who are rightly object to our tax dollars going to fund abortion and yet support the House bill, are apparently willing to make the calculation that the good of health care reform outweighs the evil of having some abortions federally subsidized.

But many believe that such a calculation nevertheless involves making absolutely clear that no abortions done for reasons of mere birth control should be covered in a federally managed and subsidized health care insurance exchange.  That’s their line in sand.  They therefore support the House bill which explicitly mandates this over the Senate bill which does not.   Nevertheless, many like Timothy Noah over at Slate assure them that ‘the Senate bill doesn’t fund abortions’ and:

What really rankles Stupak (and the bishops) isn’t that the Senate bill commits taxpayer dollars to funding abortion. Rather, it’s that the Senate bill commits taxpayer dollars to people who buy private insurance policies that happen to cover abortion at nominal cost to the purchaser (even the poorest of the poor can spare $1 a month) and no cost at all to the insurer. Stupak and the bishops don’t have a beef with government spending. They have a beef with market economics.

But this just is government funding of abortion.  If I buy a health insurance policy with the expressed desire to have abortion as part of my coverage, and the government says, “Sure, go ahead…we’ll even help you with your payments in such a policy…but we’ll require you to send a separate check to fund your abortion coverage,” is this really anything more than an accounting trick?   Indeed, it seems that even pro-choice leaders have described it as such:

In January, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.), a pro-abortion leader in the Senate, assured McClatchy News Service that the abortion surcharge requirement is only an “accounting procedure,” and DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also assured pro-abortion listeners that the Nelson language was of no consequence.  Yet today, in an effort to entice pro-life Democrats in the House to vote for the bill, the White House and Democratic leaders are working on “convincing as many as a dozen antiabortion Democrats in the House that abortion language in the Senate bill is more stringent than initially portrayed,” according to a report in the March 5 Washington Post.

The bottom line is that if the Senate bill is passed, for the first time ever we will have (multiple)  federal government managed and subsidized insurance companies offering birth control abortions.  This is what those who want the House bill don’t want to see.  But even even if they are wrong about that (and I think that good people can disagree) the Senate bill funds abortion in multiple other ways that the House bill does not.  Here are just two examples:

The Senate bill would reauthorize all federal Indian health programs, without including language to prohibit funding of elective abortion, even though such an amendment (the Vitter Amendment, similar to the Stupak Amendment) was approved by the Senate when it last considered Indian health legislation on February 26, 2008.   There is a clause in the Senate health bill [Sec. 10221, pp. 2175-2176] that has been misrepresented as an abortion restriction, but it actually contains no policy standard on abortion funding — it merely “punts” the question to the annual appropriations process, an unacceptable approachA vote for the Senate bill is a vote to open the door to future federal funding of abortion on demand through all Indian health programs.

The Senate bill, due to a last-minute amendment, provides $7 billion for the nation’s 1,250 Community Health Centers (CHCs), without any restriction whatever on the use of these federal funds to pay directly for abortion on demand.  (These funds are both authorized and appropriated by the bill, and thus would be untouched by the “Hyde Amendment” that currently covers Medicaid funds that flow through the annual Health and Human Services appropriations bill.)  Two pro-abortion groups, the Reproductive Health Access Project and the Abortion Access Project, are already actively campaigning for Community Health Centers to perform elective abortions.  In short, the Senate bill would allow direct federal funding of abortion on demand through Community Health Centers.

But those who want the House bill  instead of this (and, in my view, rightly so) have a major problem.  The way that health care reform will be passed, if at all, is by the House passing the Senate bill–and then using budget reconciliation to pass amendments that will appease a simple majority of House members.  Unfortunately, though this isn’t totally clear (and the we are learning just how much power the parliamentarian of the House and Senate has in this process in determining this), Stupak’s abortion amendment to the House bill  appears not to fall under the budgetary procedure that would make it open to being inserted into the final bill via reconciliation.  If so, and Pelosi cannot get 12+ new votes for the bill to balance the democrat pro-lifers who want Stupak language (an unlikely prospect to be sure), then the only way to do this would be to have the Senate pass the House bill and then do reconciliation (an even more unlikely prospect).

But I think I’ve actually changed my mind about this.

I’m glad Stupak and company are doing what they are doing, and I think they should continue to try to force the issue to get what is clearly the better abortion language, but if it comes down to passing health care reform or not I think the duty we have to the dozens of millions without health insurance trumps the abortion coverage difference between the two bills.  Remember, we are already simply playing for political points here and not standing by principle: every single supporter of the House bill is willing to support subsidized abortion in some form already.  Would the Senate bill be that much worse?  I think that the ‘separate check’ strategy, though clearly not stopping federal support of abortion, sends a wonderfully symbolic message that we as a country do not put birth control abortions in the same category as the rest of medicine.  Everyone who takes the time to write a separate check to get birth control abortion coverage will get this message.   Indeed, this is a message which upsets all the right pro-abortion rights groups.

Public policy is a teacher…and this is about as important as a lesson gets.

Abortion and Health Care Reform: What’s Past is Prologue

March 4, 2010

If it feels like we’ve been here before, its because we have:

A dozen House of Representatives Democrats opposed to abortion are willing to kill President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform plan unless it satisfies their demand for language barring the procedure, Representative Bart Stupak said on Thursday.

“Yes. We’re prepared to take responsibility,” Stupak said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked if he and his 11 Democratic allies were willing to accept the consequences for bringing down healthcare reform over abortion.

“Let’s face it. I want to see healthcare. But we’re not going to bypass the principles of belief that we feel strongly about,” he said.

We’ve been back and forth on the arguments surrounding this complicated set of issues pretty thoroughly on this blog, but let’s just pause for a minute to think again about how extraordinary this situation is.  Pro-Life democrats now hold the power to derail health care reform in their hands and, apparently, are willing to stick to their principles.  The broader democratic party–and the Obama administration–have a question to answer: are they going to let health care die in order to pacify members of their party who not only want to see abortion as a privacy right, but as something that can be covered in a federally managed and subsidized insurance exchange?

The decision they reach will impact not only health care reform (a monstrous issue in itself), but also the very identity of their party.  Will they retreat toward being the party of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, or will they continue to move in the direction of Bob Casey and Bart Stupak?   That is, in the direction of those that want to protect both the very young and those without health insurance?

That is, in the direction of a consistent ethic of life.