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.”