How Stupak's Pro-Lifers Got Rolled

The anti-abortion crusade has made his life a "living hell"

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When conservative Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak and his coalition of pro-lifers added the so-called Stupak Amendment to health care reform in November, it set up what would have been some of the strictest anti-abortion legislation in years. It also secured the support of Stupak's group, a necessary compromise to pass the bill. But in this final month of health care wrangling, Democratic leaders decided that the surest path to passage meant scrapping Stupak's provisions and ditching his coalition. How did the pro-lifers once at the center of the health care debate get shoved to the sidelines?

  • Stupak's Rough Emotional Journey  Stupak sighs, "You know, maybe for me that’s the best: I stay true to my principles and beliefs [...] vote no on this bill and then it passes anyways. Maybe for me is the best thing to do." He says of the "living hell" his life has become, "All the phones are unplugged at our house — tired of the obscene calls and threats. [My wife] won’t watch TV. [...] People saying they’re going to spit on you and all this. That’s just not fun." He ultimately concludes of health care, "It’s caused a lot of internal conflict. ‘Am I doing the right thing,’ you know? I believe everyone should have healthcare. In all my correspondence — I’ve been saying for years — it’s a right, not a privilege."
  • Abortion Coalition Cracked  Greg Sargent evaluates the defection of Stupak ally Rep. Dale Kildee, who switch to a "yes" vote. "What’s really got Democrats psyched today is the language he used — his strong endorsement, in religious terms, of the Senate bill, which Dems think will prove persuasive to what remains of the Stupak bloc."
  • Catholic Pro-Life Consensus Ending?  Reacting to the very public break of Catholic nuns from the official Catholic leadership by supporting the health care bill, liberal blogger Karoli writes, "The nuns signing this letter are the ones in the trenches, serving in Catholic hospitals and health care clinics across the nation. They represent those who see the wreckage left behind when people are denied access to care until it's too late, the damage done when poor women cannot get prenatal care, and when the sick are left to their own devices."
  • Stupak Primary Challenge?  The Daily Beast's Benjamin Sarlin thinks Stupak's relevance in Congress could be fading as Connie Saltonstall mounts a challenge to Stupak in the upcoming Democratic primary. "Her candidacy is attracting the left’s attention. Progressive groups like Democracy for America and Blue America PAC have lined up behind her, and Saltonstall said she expected a national women’s group to announce its support within days."
  • Bishops Had Bigger Problems  Liberal blogger Joe Sudbay suspects the Catholic Bishops who backed Stupak's efforts decided they had more pressing matters. "I guess his pals at the Catholic Bishops Conference are of little use these days. They're a little preoccupied these days with all the attention on the Pope's involvement in child sex abuse scandal."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.