Stupak: ‘No Regrets’ on Obamacare; But Contraception Mandate 'Violates Freedom of Religion'

Fred Lucas | September 4, 2012 | 4:51pm EDT
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President Barack Obama talks with Rep. Bart Stupak the week before the House voted to approve Obamacare in March 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Charlotte, N.C. ( - Former Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, a pro-life Democrat, said he has “no regrets” in casting what was effectively the decisive voted in enacting Obamacare in 2010.

At the same time, Stupak says that the Obamacare regulation, backed by President Barack Obama, that orders virtually all health care plans to cover without fees or co-pay sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion-inducing drugs is “wrong” and “violates freedom of religion.”

For months leading up to passage of the Patient Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, Stupak led a group of pro-life Democrats who said they would not support the legislation unless it included an amendment strictly prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion. Stupak held firm until the day of the final vote when Obama promised to sign an executive order that satisfied Stupak.

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Despite this executive order, federally subsidized health-care plans offered on state exchanges under Obamacare will not only be allowed to offer abortions, people who buy those plans will be specifically required to pay a fee to underwrite abortions specifically. The exchanges will only be required to have one plan that does not cover abortions.

Under Obamacare, Americans making up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible to get federal subsidies to purchase health insurance, so the number of people gettign tax dollars to purchase health insurance plans--including those that expressly cover abortion--will significantly increase.

Additionally, under a regulation finalized by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius earlier this year, virtually all health plans in the United States will be required to cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that are known abortifacients. (More than 40 Catholic diocese, schools and organizations, as well as small businesses owned by Catholic families, are sueing the administration arguing that this regulation violates their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. The Catholic Church teaches that Catholics cannot be involved in sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion, which it considers intrinsically evil.) Stupak is a Catholic.

On March 21, 2010, when Obamacare came up for a final vote, Stupak and his group of pro-life Democrats switched their position and voted with their party. Obamacare passed 219-212.

At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, asked Stupak, “The HHS mandate that grew out of the--that was made possible through Obamacare--could any pro-life Democrat support that type of thing?”

Stupak said, “Well, I’ll let individuals, pro-life Democrats answer that. I myself do not appreciate the HHS mandate, when you demand that an employer must provide contraceptives despite their moral, legal objections to it. I think that’s wrong. I think it violates freedom of religion. I think it violates the Hyde law [amendment] that’s been statutory for 40-some years. So, I think there’s real problems with it. I think the president is wrong on this one.”

“At the same time, we have a year to get it implemented--started August 1st--there’s a year that the religious organizations must comply,” he said. “And within that year and from what we’ve seen, there’s a constant discussion, back and forth, between the administration and those of us who are not comfortable with that HHS mandate, and hopefully there will be some changes to that before it becomes effective a year from now.”

The regulation went into effect on Aug. 1, 2011 for all Americans, except for non-profit religiously affiliated organizations that have an extra year to comply. also asked Stupak, “Do you have any regrets about how, first you were holding strong and then you made the compromise in the end with the [president’s] executive order.  A lot of people feel like the executive order doesn’t do much and can be overturned in the future by a future president.”

Stupak said, “Well, any executive order and any law can be overturned.” “But the executive order is much easier [to overturn] by a future president as opposed to a law, which takes an act of [Congress].”

Stupak:  “Sure, sure, and a future president can overturn it or President Obama can wake up tomorrow and overturn it. But there’s no way we could get our language – the Stupak amendment – in the Senate.  That’s the hard, cold reality. So, we tried other legislative maneuvers. That was the only avenue left to us. And for those of us who felt strongly, that after 100 years it’s about time this country has health care for all Americans, I have no regrets.”

“President Obama has honored the executive order, until we get to this HHS mandate and that’s not a closed chapter yet,” said Stupak. “We’re still working on that one with him. So I haven’t thrown the baby out with the bath water yet.”

On Tuesday, the first day of the Democratic National Convention, Stupak spoke at a forum sponsored by Democrats for Life. Stupak said pro-life Democrats have not been excluded from the convention, but said the party should understand it must be open to pro-lifers.

“What is clear, the Democratic Party cannot be in a majority without pro-life Democrats,” Stupak said. “The sooner they realize that, I think you’ll see a more aggressive effort there to go ahead and recruit pro-life Democrats.”

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