Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why Jim Oberstar lost the support of the pro-life movement

A version of the following MCCL letter ran in Timberjay newspapers in northern Minnesota (in the 8th Congressional District) on Oct. 23.

In a recent Timberjay story ("Oberstar snubbed by pro-life group," Oct. 15), Jim Oberstar's campaign said Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life's (MCCL) endorsement of Chip Cravaack indicates that MCCL has become "increasingly partisan." But Oberstar has only himself to blame for losing the support of the pro-life movement.

Oberstar avidly defends his vote for the Obama health care overhaul—and attacks those who disagree—but it is difficult to see how anyone committed to the pro-life view could find that legislation at all acceptable, which is why it was almost uniformly opposed by pro-life groups comprised of members of every political persuasion.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, explains: "[The new health care law contains] multiple provisions that authorize new programs or expand authorizations for existing programs that are authorized to cover abortion, either explicitly or implicitly. Some of these provisions are entirely untouched by any limitation on abortion in existing law or in the [bill] itself, and others are subject only to limitations that are temporary or contingent." Documentation is available at

On this monumental measure, Oberstar crumbled and came down squarely on the wrong side. "I will not vote for a health care bill that doesn't have the [pro-life] House abortion language in it," Oberstar pledged on Feb. 24, less than a month before voting for the bill even though it did not include the pro-life language. Oberstar reportedly led the effort to convince wavering pro-life Democrats to vote for the pro-abortion legislation.

Oberstar cites President Obama's executive order as a safeguard against federal funding of abortion, but the order can be repealed at any time and fails to trump the law itself, which lacks adequate pro-life protections. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards called the executive order a mere "symbolic gesture"—a barely-disguised cover for legislators wanting to vote for the bill regardless of its effect on unborn children and other vulnerable persons.

Already this year, three states began implementing—under the new health care law—federally-funded programs that would explicitly subsidize abortions. The Department of Health and Human Services eventually decided to exclude abortion from those plans, not because it conflicts with federal law or with Obama's executive order (it doesn't) but because National Right to Life had widely publicized the abortion coverage. In the years to come, pro-lifers will face many more battles as provisions of the Obama overhaul that could greatly expand abortion are put into place.

MCCL is not a partisan organization. We support pro-lifers of both parties, including many Democrats. Congressman Collin Peterson of the 7th District once again earned our endorsement this year due to his strong pro-life voting record and his answers to our candidate questionnaire.

In stark contrast, Congressman Oberstar has compiled a disappointing 33 percent pro-life voting record over his last term (2009-2010), and he refused to complete MCCL's candidate questionnaire.

The choice for pro-life voters in the 8th District is clear. Chip Cravaack is a principled pro-life candidate who will work in Congress to uphold the equal dignity of every member of the human family, no matter how small, vulnerable or dependent. Jim Oberstar's vote for the health care overhaul is a career-defining pro-abortion vote and will not be soon forgotten.