About two weeks ago, I wrote about Congressman Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan.  Over the last few months, Stupak gained national attention as the leader of a group of pro-life Democrats who supported healthcare reform but were concerned about language in the bill that may have permitted federal funds to be used for abortions.   Ultimately, Stupak and several other members of the House of Representatives voted for the healthcare bill when they convinced President Obama to sign an “Executive Order” verifying that no federal dollars would be used for abortions.  The bill, with those crucial votes, passed and is now law.

Today, Congressman Stupak announced that he would not seek re-election.    When I heard the announcement, I felt sad.  

Now, I know that in my earlier blog I said I had no pity for Stupak who received a number of death threats after his vote.  I argued that when he called abortion doctors “murderers” and other things he ran the risk of inflaming some less than stable people.  Ultimately, he became the target of the hatred as well.

My sadness comes from the fact that Congressman Stupak’s actions of a few months ago took balls.   That’s because he had to have known that voting for the healthcare bill and getting others to vote for it would be his political death knell.

Stupak feels strongly that federal dollars should not be used for abortions.  So, when the House and Senate passed their versions of the healthcare bill and the right to life lobbyists said that both bills still might allow federal dollars to be used for abortion, Stupak met with the President.    At Stupak’s urging, the President signed the Executive Order, but the anti-abortion crowd said it wasn’t enough to protect their concerns because the Executive Order was not law.  Still, Stupak organized this action and his comfort with it led him to ultimately vote for the healthcare bill.

When Stupak voted for the bill, he knew he was done for.  He knew that the anti-abortion groups would call him a traitor, which they did.  He knew that he could no longer rely on their political support.  Without their support, he was basically dead meat in his district in Michigan.  That’s why he made his announcement today. 

Stupak could have taken the easy way out.  He could have held firm and withheld his vote on healthcare and feigned outrage that federal dollars would be used for abortion.   But he saw the bigger picture and, at the risk of pissing off a key interest group, he accepted the Executive Order, basically trusting Obama’s word.  

For that he has paid a big price.

I totally disagree with him on the issue of abortion, but I have to quietly applaud that he was true to his principles.  He remained against abortion and for healthcare reform – and it precipitated the end of his congressional career.  You don’t see that very often these days.

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