The war among pro-lifers over health care reform is worsening, not easing, in the wake of the passage of the health care overhaul: Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, leader of a key Democratic bloc that held out for tougher language against abortion financing, has called the Catholic bishops and conservative anti-abortion lobbies "hypocrites" for not supporting the bill after Stupak won last-minute concessions from the White House.
Stupak received a guarantee from President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Obama would sign an executive order after the bill's passage that reiterates the bill's ban on any federal money going to pay for abortions. Stupak, a pro-life Catholic who had been strongly supported by the bishops and other groups for his stand, was satisfied with the deal. But his allies said the executive order was a fig leaf and Stupak has been vilified by conservative Catholic groups and lobbies like the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) since his switch.
In response, Stupak told The Daily Caller
that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and NRLC applauded President George W. Bush in 2007 when he used an executive order to limit embryonic stem cell research.
"The Democratic Congress passed [a bill] saying we'll do embryonic stem cell research," Stupak said. "Bush vetoed it in 2007. That same day he issued an executive order saying we will not do it, and all these groups applauded that he protected life.
"So now President Obama's going to sign an executive order protecting life and everyone's condemning it. The hypocrisy is great."
Stupak said he wondered whether the Catholic bishops and others were motivated more by politics than pro-life convictions and were "just using the life issue to try to bring down health care reform."
"I question, did they want to protect the sanctity of life, or did they want to defeat health care?" he told The Daily Caller.
Obama will sign the order at the White House today, and Stupak and 12 other pro-life Democrats who voted for the health bill have been invited to the signing ceremony.
Two days before the health care vote, Richard Doerflinger, who coordinated pro-life strategy with Stupak and NRLC and conservative opponents of the bill, acknowledged that the battle could leave serious divisions within the Catholic ranks.
"The church does have some work to do in dealing with frayed nerves and divisions on policy questions," he said
But Doerflinger then said that pro-lifers -- like the Catholic Health Care Association and many religious orders, as well as Catholic leaders, politicians and the nation's leading health care experts -- were "cooking the details" of the bill. The CHA, for example, does not "have policy people who work on these pro-life issues day in and day out."
It's not likely the same could be said of Bart Stupak, however. And it seems clear the wounds can only deepen before the healing begins.