On Nov. 7, 240 House members from every region of the country and both political parties supported current restrictions on federal funding of abortion by voting for the Stupak Amendment to the House health reform bill. That’s 20 more than voted for the health bill itself. Not satisfied with that fair and open result of the constitutional legislative process, 3 pro-abortion Democrats from California and 2 pro-abortion Democrats from New York have taken it upon themselves to re-write the bill this week – while Congress is out of session, behind closed doors and outside of the normal legislative process.
Many have rightfully complained that this closed-door process violates President Obama’s repeated promise of transparency in the creation of a health bill. That’s fair criticism, but more importantly the extraordinary negotiations of Reps. Pelosi (D-CA), Miller (D-CA), Waxman (D-CA). Rangel (D-NY) and Slaughter (D-NY) violate the constitutional principle of democratic rule by a representative legislature. How has the effective force of our House been reduced to those representatives whose constituencies might appear as branches on a shopping bag from a chichi boutique – San Francisco, Beverly Hills, New York?
Speaker Pelosi is opposed to the Stupak language passed by the House. Rep. George Miller has told constituents he will try to have it removed. Reps. Rangel and Waxman, who both voted against Stupak, both pointedly refused to answer House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) when he asked during floor debate whether they’d fight for Stupak in Conference should it pass the House. And Rep. Louise Slaughter is both the Chair of the House Rules Committee and Chair of the House pro-choice caucus.
In short, the will of the House has no voice if these five are the sole negotiators in a closed-door reconciliation of the House and Senate health bills. After these five representatives emerged from a closed-door meeting Wednesday, Speaker Pelosi held a press conference in which she declared, “I think we're very close to reconciliation.” Well San Francisco, Beverly Hills and New York may be agreed, but what about the majority of the House which voted in favor of Stupak?
It is safe to say that what emerges as abortion language from this process will be awful. It’s also safe to predict that the administration will have their Catholic lackeys at Catholics in Alliance and Catholics United lined up with an endorsement before anybody else has seen the text. But that trick is tired. Congress knows that not only a majority of Catholics, but the vast majority of all Americans oppose funding of abortion through health care reform.
If it does come to pass that the final abortion language is opposed to life, the final House vote will stand as a vital challenge to the notion of a “pro-life Democrat”. Will those who voted for Stupak stand firm, oppose the final bill, and prove that they can have a tremendous positive role for life in Congress? Or will they stand down, proving that any Democrat anywhere you vote for is ultimately beholden to the cultural demands of San Francisco, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles?
I’m praying, hoping and working for the former. And I really do believe it is possible if Bart Stupak continues to lead the way. If you haven’t yet, check out this message from the USCCB on how you can help.
UPDATE: American Papist has a list of Pro-Life Democrats in the House and instructions on contacting them. It's easy. I'm doing it.