President Obama has created a perfect political storm over the issue of abortion; angering both pro-lifers and proponents of abortion rights. How did he manage to do that? Mr. Obama was struggling to amass the 216 votes needed to pass health care reform legislation in the House of Representatives, so the White House announced his intention to issue an Executive Order promising restrictions, backed by enforcement, on federal funding of abortions.
In doing this, Mr. Obama upset both the pro-choice proponents who supported his rise to the White House and the anti-abortion activists vehemently opposed to portions of the health care bill.
Late in the vote-gathering game, it had appeared President Obama might be able to pass the vote threshold by the skin of his teeth. But in order to lock in that success, as well as glide through an abortion-specific vote unscathed, the President needed to lure the most vocal opponents of his party; specifically, the Bart Stupaks of the US Congress. He did just that.
Congressman Bart Stupak's (D-MI) 'yes' vote, along with those he brought on board, tipped the vote balance in the President's favor. And told Fox News Channel today the fact that both sides of the abortion debate are incensed is a good thing. "That obviously must be a good piece of legislation if both sides are mad at ya," he said.
He told Megyn Kelly that it's better to have an imperfect bill then nothing at all.
But that's not exactly how one women's rights group look at it.
"The National Organization for Women is incensed that President Barack Obama agreed [Monday] to issue an executive order designed to appease a handful of anti-choice Democrats who have held up health care reform in an effort to restrict women's access to abortion," a NOW statement reads.
"Through this order, the president has announced he will lend the weight of his office and the entire executive branch to the anti-abortion measures included in the Senate bill, which the House is now prepared to pass," the statement continued.
But does the order do anything beyond restate what is already destined to become law? Consider the statement by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, "I think the Executive Order makes this clear, the President stated throughout this process that health care reform should simply maintain the status quo [on abortion]. He believes that the bill maintains the status quo and he thinks the Executive Order reiterates that strong belief."
The President never wanted to touch the laws governing abortion through either the health care reform bill or his EO, says Gibbs, "That was the whole point."
For those concerned about the order, what about its longevity? Abortion opponents say Mr. Obama could easily repeal it.
Stupak told reporters he trusts the President, "The president didn't sign it to rip it up tomorrow."
Planned Parenthood took a less pessimistic approach to the President's decision on an Executive Order, if not simultaneously belittling its power. Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood's President said, "[M]onumental progress was made [in the passage of the health care bill]...despite a symbolic gesture, in the form of an Executive Order, to anti-choice Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI), which has diverted attention from the central goal of health care reform - controlling costs and extending coverage."
It's not yet clear if the President will pay a political price for his actions, but Stupak has already become a target. First, he was stripped of a pending "Defender of Life" award by an anti-abortion group, and then a US congressman shouted "baby killer" at him on the House floor.