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Former Democratic congressman key to 'ObamaCare's' passage betrayed by contraception mandate?

Former Democratic pro-life congressman key to 'ObamaCare's' passage angered, befuddled by controversial mandate


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 8, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If the president does not reverse the department's attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution that we're sworn to uphold and defend, must. This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand and will not stand.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, a major push to overturn President Obama's new health care rule on contraception. Now, you just heard from House Speaker John Boehner, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Obama administration has crossed a dangerous line. But Republican leaders are not alone. More and more Democrats are stepping into this new fight and taking on President Obama.

Former Democratic congressman Bart Stupak was a major player in the health care debate. Stupak and his bloc of pro-life Democrats held the president's feet to the fire, insisting President Obama sign an executive order that no federal money be used to fund abortions. The president finally agreed, and Stupak's bloc pushed the health care law over the top.

So where does he stand on the HHS contraception mandate? Former congressman Bart Stupak joins us by phone. Good evening, sir.

BART STUPAK, D-MICH., FORMER CONGRESSMAN (Via Telephone): Good evening.

VAN SUSTEREN: You don't get to vote on this one because you have retired, but I'm curious, what do you think about this latest dispute?

STUPAK: Oh, I'm disappointed that the administration would put forth such a rule, but as you're putting together and implementing major legislation, there's going to be stumbles and fumbles along the way, and this is one. And I think it can be corrected, and I hope we can get the matter resolved short of further action by Congress or -- the president should just sit down, let's work this thing out. We can do it. We've done it before, we can do it again.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, at least tonight, though, the line seems to be drawn in the sand. I don't know about tomorrow. But I'm curious, you say you stumbled and fumbled. I'm trying to understand your position. Is the morning-after pill, in your mind, contraception, or is it as -- some Catholics might say it's a form of abortion?

STUPAK: I think it's a -- it's a contraceptive. It's -- and you're destroying an embryo, you're taking a life. Therefore, I'm not in favor of that, nor does the Catholic church.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so if it's contraceptive, then it is not covered in the executive order that the president signed, is that right, that that executive order that you agreed to dealt with abortion?

STUPAK: Oh, no. No, it dealt with -- it dealt with not only abortion, but also with the conscience clause. In fact, if you look in section one of the executive order, it's -- very clearly it says -- it cites the Church amendment way back in 1973, all the way to the Weldon amendment, which was in legislation that President Obama signed in 2009, in which they talked about the conscience clause and the right of individuals and institutions such as the church to not provide these services if it violates their tenets of their faith and their principles and their conscience.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what's interesting about this, Congressman Stupak, is that there are so many different facets to this. You have Catholics, who are deeply upset about, and others, as well. You also have people who say it's the government intruding in people's lives. But the thing that caught my attention beyond all that is how -- is that how when this big -- when legislation like this is written, nobody reads it, and it gets sent over to people who are not elected at a government agency, here HHS, and then they then -- they design the rules and decide sort of the breadth of all the clauses.

STUPAK: And that was a concern with the health care legislation, or any legislation. Congress enacts the laws, but it is up to the administration to administer those laws. And you have -- mistakes made along the way. You have trial balloons put out there which are later shot down.

In this instance, with the executive order, not only were we concerned about the abortion but also conscience clause that has been in our law since the early 1970s. And therefore, we put it in there to make sure that the the longstanding principle that we believe in remains part of the health care legislation. You're giving them guidance and you're giving them this executive order. And it has the full force and effect of law. And you're right. And everyone who criticized the executive order that we had signed, they probably never read it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so I guess sort of the easy fix might be if -- that it's just -- that it is read to include Catholic hospitals and other -- not just churches, that that would probably be an easy way that they could probably fix this one, right?

STUPAK: That would be an easier way to fix it. And again, you can rely upon the executive order for the authority to fix it, (INAUDIBLE) one of the executive order, longstanding federal laws to protect -- such as the Church amendment, Weldon amendment remain intact and now protections prohibit discrimination in health care facilities and health care providers because of an unwillingness to provide -- pay for -- provide coverage of or refer for abortion. So I think the (INAUDIBLE) in there. Go ahead.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congress, I just want to thank you very much for joining us.

STUPAK: Thank you.