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A Cowardly Lion Who Lost His Heart

Year after year has gone by with pro-life activists being accused by pro-abortion groups of being one-sided partisans. Speculative conversations often occurred among activists – if only we had some bi-partisan pro-life support, we could build on the progress made from the successes of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban.

For months, Catholic Advocate and numerous other pro-life organizations around the country, praised Congressman Bart Stupak (D, MI-01) for his stalwart defense of life during the health care debate and thought we finally had a pro-life Democrat willing to fight the culture of death. Congressman Stupak roared like a lion in the savage jungle of Capitol Hill. He handled tremendous pressure from his own caucus and countless rumors and speculation about compromises and deals.

Then, on that fateful weekend in March, pro-life Americans shook their heads with disappointment and disbelief upon hearing the news Congressman Stupak had compromised. He cut a deal worse than the Senator Ben Nelson (D, NE) Cornhusker kickback. By endorsing a meaningless Executive Order, Stupak cleared the way for pro-life Democrats to vote for the Obama-Pelosi pro-abortion health care bill.

After attending the Executive Order signing in the Oval Office, Congressman Stupak’s press release stated:

“Throughout history, Executive Orders have been an important means of implementing public policy.  In 2007, George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13435 restricting embryonic stem cell research – a pro-life policy that was applauded and welcomed by the pro-life community.  These same groups have been opposed to President Obama’s pro-life Executive Order.”

President Bush’s Executive Order’s being cited by Congressman Stupak was narrowly focused to actions by the Executive Branch. As the courts have ruled over time, when Executive Order goes beyond, into the actions of the Legislative Branch, the law dominates.

In a weird twist of irony, the very same week President Obama was signing Congressman Stupak’s Executive Order, a Massachusetts judge sided with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) striking down an Executive Order relating to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and money granted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

The most important casualties from the fights on Capitol Hill over abortion funding in the health care bill were the unborn.

Now, the source of one of the worst compromises against life in the history of the pro-life cause is calling it quits. Rather than be held accountable by the voters in his district, Congressman Bart Stupak announced retirement on Friday, April 9, 2010.

On the Washington Post website, Congressman Stupak’s sources “describe him as burned out from the long fight over health care in which he emerged as the leading voice of pro-life Democrats wary about the possibility that the legislation would allow federal funds to be spent on abortions.” There are also sources saying he was disappointed at the harsh reaction he received from both sides of the aisle following the health care debate.

Most people, when they come out victorious after a long hard personal fight, usually catch their breath and return invigorated by their victory. It is only when you have truly lost a challenge that you have trouble finding your motivation, and worse yet, if you are the one responsible for the loss.

Congressman Stupak has served the people of Northern Michigan for nearly twenty years. He has endured the tragedy of losing a son to suicide and worked tirelessly to focus on the role prescriptions might have played in his son’s decision, so other parents would not suffer the same pain. He consistently stood for the cause of life, but when it came to the biggest battle in years, could not go the distance.

Congressman Stupak unsuccessfully tried to have it both ways on health care. He made a drastic error in judgment that will ultimately further abortion in the United States.

We wish him and Laurie well as they begin the next chapter in their lives. Even after a long career in Congress, in Washington, you are, unfortunately, most remembered for how you depart. Many pro-life activists feel Congressman Stupak quit on them, so it is only fitting he retire from the arena if he has lost his heart for the battles.

By Matt Smith, Catholic Advocate Vice President

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