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When he finally voted for President Obama’s health-care bill, “pro-life” Rep. Bart Stupak (D., Minn.) disappointed a lot of people. Many folks believed that he really did want to make sure that the federal government wouldn’t compel taxpayer funding of abortion, and a number of pro-life groups even made plans to honor Stupak for his efforts. Those plans, of course, had to be canceled.
If one of those groups has a spare defender-of-life award lying around, they ought to give it to the man who could be the next speaker of the House of Representatives, House minority leader Rep. John Boehner (R., Ohio).
I spend a fair amount of time among conservatives and pro-life activists, and, in their company, Boehner’s name rarely comes up. For some, a distrust of those in power keeps them from embracing him. For others it’s his style, his look and feel. But the fact of the matter is that Boehner managed to hold his caucus together on the health-care bill and on other votes, he’s kept the pro-choice crowd and its ruling-Left cronies in check (as much as a minority leader can), and he’s got a solid record of doing lots of things that are popular these days; for example, he’s never taken an earmark in his life.
In a speech to a conservative audience this winter, Boehner insisted that Republicans in the House wouldn’t “bend on . . . the issue of the sanctity of life.” He explained: “In November, Republican lawmakers joined with some Democrat lawmakers to stop them from using any federal taxpayer funds from being used to provide for abortions in America. . . . We got some flak for working with the other side.”
That’s what you call principled leadership. Even though he hated the bill, if it was going to pass, he wanted taxpayer funding of abortion out of it. After the Stupak language was included in the House bill that passed last year, Boehner went to the House floor three times and asked Democratic chairmen Charlie Rangel, Henry Waxman, and George Miller to pledge to support the Stupak language come time for conference negotiations with the Senate. Because abortion was a priority of theirs, they declined. (Too bad that Stupak, wanting the bill to pass, didn’t feel as strongly about the sanctity of the unborn when his moment for leadership arrived.) Recalling what went down late last year, Boehner said: “When it comes to protecting the unborn, we’ll take the votes wherever we can get them. . . . We did the right thing for the right reasons. And we’re showing . . . the American people that there’s a clear difference between the two parties.”
The difference became abundantly clear one night in March when Nancy Pelosi, seemingly unsure whether she had the votes for the president’s health-care bill, called Stupak in and asked him what it would take to get him to support the bill. He reportedly still wanted measures included that would prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion and protect the consciences of medical personnel opposed to abortion. The “pro-choice” caucus in the House — led by Rep. Diana DeGette (D., Colo.), a radical feminist leader in the party of death — would have none of it.
Boehner, on the other hand, not only did his job and kept to his word, but also confronted the president of the United States and other leaders of the Democratic party who consistently lied about the abortion content in the legislation they’ve now passed. At the White House summit on health care, Boehner said: “For 30 years, we’ve had a federal law that says that we’re not going to have taxpayer funding of abortions. We’ve had this debate in the House . . . and the House upheld the language we have had in law for 30 years, that there will be no taxpayer funding of abortions. This bill that we have before us . . . for the first time in 30 years allows for the taxpayer funding of abortions.”
He went on to make the case that he and his Republican colleagues had consistently made: Let’s start again. Let’s work together, for real. Let’s make sure there’s no abortion in this bill.
Well, that didn’t happen. But Boehner put up a fight. And if the Democrats lose seats in November, as expected, he may be able to put a lot more power behind his opposition to the White House. He’s been a consistent leader for life — especially when it truly counted – and there’s every indication he will continue to be one. Instead of complaining that Republicans don’t talk more about the issue, those who believe that the sanctity of unborn life is a central human-rights issue of our day should thank John Boehner. He has a zero rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, an arm of the abortion industry, and a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee. In the face of so many powerful figures and influences arrayed against Boehner and a culture of life, it’s the right thing to do.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online. She can be reached at [email protected].