After the events that transpired this weekend in Washington, D.C., it's easy and tempting to bag on the "pro-life" Democrats like Bart Stupak and James Oberstar who, when push came to shove, proved all too willing to surrender their "pro-life" principles for the greater good of their party. At least Stupak could maintain the pretense of having gotten something in return, although if there's one thing that all sides of the abortion issue seem to agree on it's that President Obama's promised executive order to prevent federal abortion funding is essentially meaningless. Longtime Oberstar observers like our own Saint Paul knew that while might he make noises about standing firm, in the end his "pro-life" convictions would only come into play when convenient and that the Democrats could count on him to play ball when needed.
But instead of dwelling in the darkness, let's instead keep on the sunny side and give kudos to a member of the increasingly rare species of truly pro-life Democrat. The man deserving of said praise is Minnesota's own Congressman Collin Peterson from the Seventh District. Peterson has a consistent pro-life voting record and, even though he faced all the same pressures to support the health care bill from his party, Pelosi, the President, and progressive groups, he did not waver. He put his principles before his party and for this he deserves credit.
Interestingly enough, in his statement on his Health Care Vote he does not cite abortion funding as a reason to oppose the bill. Rather, he focuses on the lack of cost control and disparities in coverage:
This legislation doesn't control costs, doesn't reform Medicare, and only covers 37% of the uninsured in the 7th District as opposed to an average of 68% nationwide. Some districts will see coverage expanded to cover as much as 92% of the uninsured and Minnesotans will be paying for that while leaving 63% of our 7th District residents without coverage. This is very similar to the way the Medicare geographic disparities problem was created back in 1982. The geographic payment disparity encourages cost-shifting and rewards low quality/high cost health care providers in other states while forcing Minnesota to do more with less. Instead of fixing that problem--which we need to do--this legislation will lock us into that same disparity situation with regard to the uninsured. Minnesotans will be asked to do more with less while also covering costs in other states that aren't doing the right thing for their own citizens. And on top of that this legislation will not control costs--in fact it seems to me that it will do just the opposite; health insurance premiums will rise. CBO has said that premiums for individuals will increase 10-13%.
But based on his past voting record and opposition to federal funding of abortion, it seems likely that at least part of Peterson's NO vote was due to the pro-life views. That makes him a very rare bird indeed these days, a genuine pro-life Democrat. While there are many issues where Collin Peterson and I disagree, I respect the courage and character he displayed here when his mettle was truly put to the test. He did what was right when it truly mattered. And isn't that what we really want to see from our politicians?