As conservative opinion writers go, Kathleen Parker is far from the worst. But, she must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday because her contribution to this morning’s Washington Post is truly loathsome.
Her target is Cong. Bart Stupak whom she accuses of being a Judas to the pro-life cause. It should be clear from the venom being spewed at him, noticeably all by Republicans, that the cause Stupak “betrayed” was not the pro-life cause but the defeat-health-care-at-all-costs cause. But, Mr. Stupak never signed on to that latter cause, did he? He said that his conscience needed to be satisfied that the Hyde Amendment restrictions on federal funding of abortion were present in the final bill. When he looked at the Senate language, he said it was too ambiguous. He agreed to vote for the bill when the President agreed to sign an Executive Order that clarified those ambiguities.
Ah, but Ms. Parker tells us the ‘executive order promising that no federal funds will be used for abortion is utterly useless, and everybody knows it. First, the president can revoke it as quickly as he signs it.” I suppose that last observation is formally true. But, even someone as blinded by the rightwing lights as Parker can recognize that if the President were to go back on his solemn pledge, it would cost him dear, and not only in the estimation of pro-lifers. Perhaps Parker has spent too much time with Professor Robbie George, who gave the pro-life movement the meme that Obama is “the most pro-abortion president in history” and provided that catchy phrase before Obama even became president.
Of course, executive orders do not “trump” a federal statute as Parker points out. But, sometimes they change the culture in which federal statutes live. The Emancipation Proclamation and Harry Truman’s executive order integrating the military come to mind. Perhaps it would help Parker if she recalled a couple of executive orders closer to our own time and to the issue at hand. George W. Bush’s decision to prohibit federal funding for most, not all, embryonic stem cell research was made by executive order, as was his decision, in the final hours of his presidency, to enhance conscience protections for health care workers. (What a Profile in Courage that was! Eight years in office, and he gets around to conscience protection in the final 72 hours of his presidency.) I do not recall Ms. Parker complaining about those executive orders, do you?
I read today that pro-life activists have called Stupak’s home and threatened not only his life but the life of his children. There is a new tactic for the pro-life movement: Kill the children of those who disagree with you! Damn, why didn’t I think of that. And, when these critics of Stupak invoke the bishops, the bishops would do well to remember that this is the same crowd that criticized Cardinal Sean O’Malley for presiding at the funeral of Sen. Kennedy last year. This crowd is not loyal to the Church. They are not loyal to the pro-life movement. They are crazy and they are dangerous and shame on Kathleen Parker for stoking their already burning anger.