In 1917 Wallace Stevens published “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” a poem now firmly ensconced in every anthology of American poetry. Generations of students have read it as a lesson in perspectivism — how the imagination can see the same thing under a variety of guises.
Bart Stupak (D-MI) is not the subject of anyone’s poem, but already a discernible pattern of Stupak caricatures are forming in the wake of his explicit rejection of the abortion funding “compromise” in the Senate bill and his rather barbed comments on the White House pressuring him to drop his objections. Over the next two weeks these interpretations of Stupak will clash in the media coverage of the health care bill’s final throes.
Perhaps the most dominant caricature of Stupak will be “Anti-Choice Fanatic.” For example, the Huffington Post‘srecent headline, “Stupak Coordinating Anti-Choice Activism with GOP Senate Leadership,” included a link to Politico’s story on alleged emails between Stupak’s office and Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY). A Google search of Stupak and “anti-choice” yields 190,000 hits.
A rather unfair interpretation of Stupak is as “The Bishops’ Puppet,” but that’s what Cliff Kincaid argues in an otherwise pertinent take on the bishops’ role in the health care reform. Kincaid views the Stupak Amendment as “a ploy designed to keep the legislation alive,” devised by five lobbyists from the USCCB. If it makes Stupak feel any better, Kincaid casts Cong. John Boehner (R-OH) in the same role — “Boehner got his marching orders as well” from Cardinal George who told him “that the Republicans shouldn’t scuttle the Stupak amendment.”
Probably the most utilized charge against Stupak is that he’s “Against Women’s Health.” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, began banging that drum, arguing (falsely, by the way) that the “Stupak/Pitts amendment would result in a new restriction on women’s access to abortion coverage in private health insurance.” In spite of this claim being proved false by independent investigators, it continues to be repeated in editorials nationwide. For Planned Parenthood, however, facts are less important than promoting its pro-abortion ideology.
Of course, not all the interpretations of Stupak are negative. Among social conservatives Stupak is a “Pro-Life Warrior,” as named by blogger Stephen Dillard. More than a few preachers have invoked the David vs. Goliath story to describe Stupak’s defiance of the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats. Dillard asks aloud what many are asking in private:
In fact, I was going to include a version of Stupak called “Destined to Compromise,” but I couldn’t find anyone of note who has predicted this publicly (though, like Dillard, I have heard the prediction from my more cynical, or should I say seasoned, friends).
For me, Stupak is the Catholic Politician Who ‘Gets It.’ The evidence for this is not only his courage in sponsoring the amendment and refusal to accept Nelson’s compromise, but his remarks from an article in the New York Times published on Christmas Day. Stupak was evidently asked about the Catholic Health Association’s surprising endorsement of the Senate health care bill containing abortion funding. “They don’t hold the same sway,” Stupak said of the CHA.
Stupak “gets it” because he’s not going to hide under the skirts of Catholic groups who compromise the Church’s teaching on life issues, and who do so without any authority. By dismissing the influence of CHA, Stupak not only rejects the cover of a lobbying organization with vested interests, but he also defers to the authority of the bishops and their insistence that the health care bill be stripped of abortion funding.
In the coming weeks Bart Stupak will be portrayed as everything from a saint to a demon… or just another political hack waiting to make his deal. Who Bart Stupak turns out to be will be the most important factor in this round of the health care debate.
A poem by Christina Rosetti, published posthumously in 1904, became a favorite Christmas carol after Gustav Holst set it to music for the English Hymnal two years later. The poem underscores the harsh setting of the nativity — the first stanza reads:
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
I thought of these words today as Washington, D.C., still sits under more than a foot of “snow on snow,” the ground underneath frozen “hard as iron.” In Rossetti’s poem, the wintry setting contrasts with the warm adoration of the child by the angels, the cherubim, seraphim, ox, ass, camel, mother, shepherds, and the wise men:
What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him –
Give my heart.
This morning, before the sun has risen, the wise men and women of the Senate will have made their way over the still-icy sidewalks and stairways of the Capitol to vote on Christmas Eve day at 7:00 a.m.
Children also figure into the senators’ narrative on the day before Christ’s birth. These are the children who will never be born, because 60 U.S. senators, many of them Catholic, will vote to provide funding for abortion in the name of “preventive care.”
As a 2007 Guttmacher report on Medicaid abortion funding shows, “Studies published over the course of two decades, looking at a number of states, concluded that 18-35 percent of women who would have had an abortion continued their pregnancies after Medicaid funding was cut off.” The Guttmacher researcher calls this “the most tragic result of the funding restrictions,” an opinion obviously shared by the majority of the Senate in the 111th Congress.
They don’t seem to grasp the tragedy they will have enacted. How many more children will die each year? One hundred thousand? Two hundred thousand? Probably more — many more.
Nothing that happens in the grandeur of the Senate chamber on Christmas Eve could be further from the scene conjured by Rossetti’s image of angels who “fall down” and “throng the air,” while
His mother only,
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.
Or the wise man who hesitates before naming what it is he has to give — not his intelligence, but his heart.
Those who gathered in the cold night air around the manger brought the warmth of their devotion and the light of their happiness to welcome the child. The vote this morning will send a chill across America, with people asking themselves, “What have we become? Where did we lose our way?”
The voices of these people have yet to be heard. How could they respond to the 2,000-plus pages of a bill conceived in secret, published only days before Sen. Harry Reid demanded a vote?
But the winter is far from over, and the bill still has to pass muster with some men and women in the House who understand why the wise man chose to give his heart to the Child in the manger.
As reported by LifeNews.com, Cong. Bart Stupak (D-MI) is feeling the heat from the White House over his rejection of the abortion mandate in the Senate health care bill. We all knew this was coming, which is why I wrote my letter of encouragement to Stupak “On the Eve of Battle.”
Between now and mid-to-late January, when the House will finally vote on the bill, Stupak will be a walking target for the pro-Democrat media and the pro-abortion lobbyists who want this health care bill, precisely because it contains abortion funding.
Watch for a rising tide of derogatory comments and stories on Stupak in the mainstream media — the word is out among the leftwingers to take Stupak out, whatever it takes.
Stupak is a former police officer who knows how to take the heat. This is what he said about the White House pressure:
Stupak said that the White House ‘asked me just to hold off for awhile and not to say anything about this language.’
But as soon as the news broke that they had this [compromise], and they got the 60 votes, folks were asking me, and I’m not going to run from the issue; I’m going to stand up and say, ‘Look, here’s my objections. Here – it’s not just my objections – but there’s a number of my [colleagues] who feel strongly about this issue, and these are the parts that have to be fixed.’
Stupak also indicated he is not alone in facing pressure from the Obama administration but that he and his pro-life colleagues in the House will not budge like Nelson did.
‘We’re getting a lot of pressure not to say anything, to try to compromise this principle or belief,’ Stupak told CNS. ‘[T]hat’s just not us. We’re not going to do that. Members who voted for the Stupak language in the House – especially the Democrats, 64 Democrats that voted for it – feel very strongly about it. It’s been part of who we are, part of our make up. It’s the principle belief that we have. We are not just going to abandon it in the name of health care.’
Stupak is going to hang tough; he is not equivocating or leaving himself an opening to compromise. Stupak and his pro-life Democratic colleagues have the votes to bury the health care bill, if the Casey language, rather than Stupak’s, stays in the bill. As Stupak explains,
Well, if all the issues are resolved and we’re down to the pro-life view or, I should say, no public funding for abortion, there’s at least 10 to 12 members who have said, repeatedly, unless this language is fixed and current law is maintained, and no public funding for abortion,’ Stupak told CNS. ‘There’s 10 or 12 of us, and they only passed the bill by 3 votes, so they’re going to be short 8 to 9, maybe 6 to 8 votes. So they [Democrats] do not have the votes to pass it in the House.’
THE HEALTH CARE BILL IS NOT A DONE DEAL! Most of the media is saying that once the bill passes the Senate tomorrow morning it is a fait accompli. Not so.
Kathleen Gilbert at LifeSiteNews has a fascinating interview with Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life. On the surface the interview tells the story of a senator who made rather boastful promises of sticking to his pro-life convictions but abruptly broke those promises with a nonsensical cover story of adding “Stupak-plus” language to the manager’s amendment.
Schmit-Albin calls Nelson’s support for the Senate health care bill a “craven betrayal,” a view evidently shared by the majority of voters, both Democratic and Republican, in the conservative state of Nebraska. Schmit-Albin points this out by saying Nelson’s action, even considering the millions for Medicaid, was not “in his own self-interest.”
To my mind, Gilbert’s interview with Schmit-Albin raises the question of what pressure was brought to bear on Nelson that we don’t know about.
Here is the middle section of the story:
“He had been telling Nebraskans for two weeks: ‘I’m not gonna be rushed, I’m not going to be held to a Christmas timeline,” she continued. “He even said on a radio station Thursday morning … ‘I plan to be home for Christmas’ so we thought, well, that means he could just not vote for cloture and leave … and he’d be home.”
Nelson had also boasted the same day that he was a “cheap date” compared to some of his colleagues, since he was holding out against the bill on principle and not in hopes of a payoff. However, Nelson caved to pressure after securing special federal funding for Nebraska to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income individuals, in addition to other concessions requested by Nelson.
“At some point,” Schmit-Albin said, “he bought into Harry Reid’s timetable.”
Schmit-Albin called Nelson’s office Friday night asking to speak with the senator “because I knew it was crucial, because they had him squirrelled away in the proverbial smoke-filled room, and I thought he was under a lot of pressure.” She received a call back at 7:30.
“Julie, I want you to know that this is a courtesy call, this is not a call to get your input or approval, but I have some alternative language that I’m going to pitch back to Democratic leadership,” she recalls Nelson telling her. She said Nelson repeatedly assured her that the new language “was Stupak-plus,” an assertion that later baffled Schmit-Albin, who had protested to no avail that National Right to Life be allowed to vet the language.
“Well, he had to know this was weakened language,” she said. “He knew that by not vetting it by the national groups, that there was a chance that it wasn’t good language.” Schmit-Albin later learned that Nelson had agreed to language that allowed states to opt out of providing abortion coverage through the new insurance exchange, and instigated a funds-segregating scheme for premium dollars funding abortion, but left the bill’s federal abortion funding intact.
President Obama praised Nelson’s decision, saying, “It now appears the American people will have the vote they deserve on genuine reform.”
Your statement on Saturday following the decision of Sen. Ben Nelson to support the Senate health-care bill was a great relief to millions of Catholics in this country. Your comment that “the Senate abortion language is not acceptable” provided moral and religious clarity at a crucial moment in the history of our nation and Church.
You pinpointed the problems with the abortion language of the manager’s amendment, noting the “dramatic shift in federal policy that would allow the federal government to subsidize insurance policies with abortion coverage.” You also rejected the proposed “segregation of funds” as “another departure from current policy prohibiting federal subsidy of abortion language.”
Senator Nelson believes that the language you find unacceptable has “accomplished the goal” of preventing “tax dollars from being used to subsidize abortions.” As your statement infers, Nelson is simply wrong about this and, for whatever reason, refused a briefing with National Right to Life, whose ownstatement further explains the shortcomings of the manager’s amendment.
Nelson’s decision was influenced by a deal he was offered so that his state of Nebraska would save money in Medicaid payments. How can that compare to the thousands, and eventually millions, of aborted children that will directly result from federal funding for abortion? Surely you agree that the right to life is not a principle that can be for sale at any price.
In all likelihood, your resolve and leadership is going to be tested when the health-care bill passes in the Senate, passes through conference, and returns to the House for a final vote. Sixty-three Democrats joined you in supporting your amendment banning federal funding for abortion, but the amendment itself added only ten new votes to the total.
Nonetheless, if those ten votes remain constant (including your own), the health-care bill, in its present form, cannot pass the House.
I don’t need to tell you that Catholic leadership in the Congress has, for many years, been sending a mixed message on the non-negotiable life issues to this nation’s citizens, Catholic and non-Catholic. If the House, following your leadership, rejects this bill because of federal funding of abortion, it will help correct much of the widespread confusion about Catholic teaching. (It will also bring anger, but I have a feeling you’re prepared for that.)
I hope you will continue to look beyond the political upside or downside of your efforts to remove abortion funding from health-care reform. None of those calculations can matter in the face of the unborn child.
Many of those lives hang in the balance as we approach the eve of the health-care battle, which may well be Christmas Eve itself. You will recall that the Christ child Himself faced a threat to His life in Herod not long after He was born. He wasn’t the last.
It’s not your job, or mine, to gather our children and flee to another land. But it is our job to insure that the time will never come when it is necessary.
With prayers and best wishes during this Advent season,
As reported at the Catholic Key Blog, National Right to Life is scoring a vote for cloture on the Senate health care bill as a vote for abortion. Catholic Advocate will follow suit and add the cloture vote to its Congressional scorecard.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of National Right to Life explains:
The Manager’s Amendment is light years removed from the Stupak-Pitts Amendment that was approved by the House of Representatives on November 8 by a bipartisan vote of 240-194. The new abortion language solves none of the fundamental abortion-related problems with the Senate bill, and it actually creates some new abortion-related problems.
NRLC will score the upcoming roll call votes on cloture on the Reid Manager’s Amendment, and on the underlying bill, as votes in favor of legislation to allow the federal government to subsidize private insurance plans that cover abortion on demand, to oversee multi-state plans that cover elective abortions, and to empower federal officials to mandate that private health plans cover abortions even if they do not accept subsidized enrollees, among other problems.
As the reality of Ben Nelson’s betrayal of the pro-life cause sinks in further, I have been asking myself how he could put a price tag on the value of protecting innocent human life.
So what if the state of Nebraska saves hundreds of millions of dollars of Medicaid payments in the years to come! How can that compare to the thousands, and eventually millions, of aborted children that will directly result from federal funding for abortion? (Studies consistently show that government funding increases the number of abortions by 20-30 percent.)
Cong. Bart Stupak has already stated his opposition to the Senate version of the bill, calling it “unacceptable.” You can bet deals will be offered to the 62 Democrat members who voted for Stupak-Pitts. Stupak himself will be put through an unbelievable pounding in the press and by abortion enthusiasts.
Pelosi will do all she can to twist the arms of those House members she needs to pass the bill by Christmas. There will be a lot of sore arms flying home late on Christmas Eve. But how many will be broken? We will see.
MAJORITY IN U.S. SENATE DEAF TO THE VOICES OF PRO-LIFE AMERICANS AND CATHOLICS Hudson – “The state ‘opt-out’ language is smoke and mirrors”
Deal W. Hudson, Executive Director of Catholic Advocate, called on pro-life members of the Senate to oppose the Senator Reid “Managers’ Amendment” released this morning.
“The majority in the Senate has turned a deaf ear to the voice of American Catholics by seeking to establish federal funding for abortion.
“The state ‘opt-out’ language is smoke and mirrors. With Senator Nelson’s compromise, the Senate will likely pass legislation allowing our federal government to supply abortion on demand money. It is disingenuous for the Senate to think funding for abortions will be segregated. Regardless of any potential ‘opt-out’, the pool of money is there to stay.
“Catholic, Pro-Life Members of Congress can not in good conscience support this language. During this Advent season as we celebrate the creation of life, Congress should instead be sending the message that we as Americans value life.
“When the time comes for the House and Senate to move to Conference Committee, the House should not allow the Senate to follow the reported ‘limited conference’ and hold-out until the Stupak-Pitts language remains. Americans, Catholics and beyond, have been clear. They do not want their government in the business of paying for abortions.”
A more thorough commentary entitled “Sen. Nelson Caves In to Democratic Party Pressure on Health Care Bill” can be found at http://www.www.catholicadvocate.com/dev/
Deal W. Hudson can be contacted at email@example.com.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), the last hope of pro-life forces, has caved in to Democratic Party and White House pressure to support the Senate Health Care Bill. He indicated today he would support the bill based upon the “manager’s amendment” containing the so-called “compromise” language on abortion funding negotiated by Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA), the son of the legendary pro-life, Catholic governor of Pennsylvania, Bob Casey.
Casey’s language, now approved by Nelson, makes federal funding for abortion the default position of health care reform. The Washington Post describes the compromise as follows: