Rep. Dan Lipinski Is Loyal to Life, Not to Party

Rep. Dan Lipinski is a rarity in the House of Representatives these days: He's a pro-life Democrat. He addressed the March for Life Friday, speaking by video to the tens of thousands who braved bitter cold in Washington, D.C., to take a stand for the sanctity of human life. Lipinski, who represents a Chicago area district, said he joined the marchers in mourning "the 40th anniversary of the taking away of the most basic of human rights--the right to life." He then pointed out, "Life should not be a partisan issue."

Of course, he's right. Both parties should defend the right to life. It cannot be a healthy sign for America when one party is committed to the destruction of innocent unborn children while the other--in too many cases--offers only a weak or timorous defense. 

We used to have nearly a hundred genuinely pro-life Democrats in the House. The original Hyde Amendment, which barred federal funding of nearly all abortions, was passed in 1977 with strong bipartisan majorities. We should remember, especially, Rep. William Natcher, D-Ky., a very senior Democrat who stood up to liberal pressures for years to defend the unborn.

The greatest crisis for pro-life Democrats came in 2010 when Obamacare was being rammed through Congress. In the crunch, many long-term pro-life Democrats became, tragically, faux-life Democrats. Some, like Minnesota's Jim Oberstar, who carried the banner of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, Hubert Humphrey's coalition, had been in the House for half a lifetime and had loyally voted pro-life from 1975 to 2010. But then, unconscionably, he and a score of others voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had promised to pass by hook or by crook. 

These pro-life Democrats had originally backed the Stupak-Pitts Amendment of 2009, which would have given the president what he said he wanted: full healthcare coverage for all Americans, but it would have prevented the funding of abortion. The amendment garnered 240 votes in the House and had the backing, according to a Quinnipiac University poll taken at the time, of 72 percent of Americans. Those 240 votes represented the highest bipartisan support for almost any measure in that bitterly divided legislative chamber.

At that time, President Obama said, "We have a tradition of not funding abortion." But he had been elected, he told us repeatedly, to "fundamentally transform America," not to respect traditions. And so he didn't. The final version of Obamacare doesn't force anyone to pay for abortions; it just forces us all to pay for insurance that covers abortion. 

It's a presidential shell game. Except that under Obama's shell we find the lives of millions of unborn children at grave risk. Poor Rep. Stupak buckled under party pressure and accepted an executive order from Obama that the president claimed would achieve the same goal Stupak sought with his amendment. It didn't. It couldn't.

After the passing of Obamacare, many pro-life Democrats retired in 2010, as Stupak did, or were defeated in the Tea Party-led "shellacking" from voters later that year. Ironically, that made the Democratic Party more militantly pro-abortion and strengthened the pro-life position of the GOP.

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Ken Blackwell
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