…of using abortion to oppose health care reform. There’s really no other way to read his essay in the new Newsweek. The relevant paragraphs pick up the story on the eve of passage of the Senate bill:
On that Sunday, seven or eight of us pro-lifers sat with silver urns
of coffee, yellow legal pads, and red pens in a discreet room away from
the White House, hammering out the language. We also put in a final call
to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had been among my
strongest supporters during the fall.
I was disappointed by what I heard. No, no, no, no, they
said. We need statutory law. But an executive order can have the full
force of law, I said. Lincoln used one to free the slaves. George W.
Bush used one to block stem-cell research using human embryos. And
President Obama assures me that this is “ironclad.” Besides, I said,
it’s time to negotiate or lose our chance to shape the bill. Help me
with it? No, they said. Won’t you at least look at it? No.
That call changed my relationship with the pro-life
movement. In the 18 years I’ve been in Congress, pro-life Democrats like
me have delivered, working out compromises that protect human life. Now
we had the most important piece of legislation for our movement
yet–with pregnancy prevention, prenatal and postnatal care, and care for
kids–and we couldn’t get support.
In the past few weeks, I’ve received so many death threats that I was
advised to get a security escort around Washington. My wife, Laurie,
has had to unplug our home phone to avoid drunken messages from people
screaming, swearing, and generally acting profane–usually around the
time the bars in their states close. We’ve had to endure TV, radio, and
bus-stop ads. One day I got 1,500 faxes, all hate mail.
Ultimately, what stings the most isn’t the hatred. (After
all, people hate cops, lawyers, and politicians, and I’ve been all
three.) It’s that people tried to use abortion as a tool to stop
health-care reform, even after protections were added.
No doubt the USCCB will vigorously deny that it dug in its heels on abortion as a way to stop the bill. No, no, no, no, they will say. We have always been strong supporters of health care reform. But I’m strongly inclined to believe that when push came to shove, the folks at the other end of the line, led by Richard Doerflinger, associate director for Policy Development at the Secretariat for
Pro-Life, Activities, were doing just that.