Beliefnet
Steven Waldman

David Kirkpatrick’s New York Times article about abortion-and-health-care politics included the stunning disclosure that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is meeting today with the leading pro-life Democrat for the first time.
According to the Times piece, Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat of Michigan, got a call from President Obama ten days ago urging him to “get this thing worked out among the Democrats.”
Let me get this straight: 40 pro-life Democrats said long ago that they wouldn’t support health care unless they can be assured the plan doesn’t subsidize abortion, and Pelosi is only now meeting with their leader? The Catholic Bishops said they want to support health care reform if they can get a tenable abortion position, but the Speaker hasn’t met with the member of Congress closest to their views until now?
This underlines a point I’ve been making to my pro-choice readers who think that having won the election, they don’t need to accomodate pro-life viewpoints: “You” didn’t put Obama in the White House or Democrats in Congress. A diverse coalition did. One quarter of Obama’s vote was pro-life. 40 Democratic members of the House are pro-life.
Again, I’m not arguing a particular substantive position. I’m just saying that from a tactical perspective, for those who believe passing health care reform is important, it’s astounding that a full-court outreach to pro-life Democrats is happening so late in the game. Maybe there was some brilliant strategy for waiting until now — i.e. waiting until after the bills passed committee, and Stupak had less leverage, to engage with him. Or maybe Stupak was the obstacle or Kirkpatrick got it wrong or there were productive negotiations going on outside Pelosi’s office.
In any event, this is a significant development. If Democrats devise a compromise that Stupak et all can live with, then they’ll bring over the other pro-life Democrats — and probably the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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