WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to sign an executive order Wednesday reaffirming longstanding restrictions on federal funding of abortion, but he won’t hold an event like the signing ceremony a day earlier.
The order is part of an 11th-hour agreement with Democratic abortion opponents in the House that brought them over to Obama’s side and pushed the health insurance overhaul over the top.
Obama has invited members of the Democrats’ anti-abortion bloc, including its leader, Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, to the private afternoon signing at the White House.
Stupak is under fire from his fellow abortion opponents for accepting the order as his price for supporting the health care overhaul. He released a statement Tuesday defending the order, placing it on a list of other significant orders that included Abraham Lincoln’s freeing of the slaves and Harry Truman’s 1948 order desegregating the U.S. armed forces.
“Throughout history, executive orders have been an important means of implementing public policy,” Stupak said in a statement. “The most famous executive order was the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln in 1863.”
The Stupak-negotiated executive order has drawn withering criticism from both pro-life and pro-choice groups. The former say he is allowing more openings for abortion, the latter say he’s denied abortion services to women.
Stupak says the order merely upholds the status quo that taxpayer money shouldn’t be used for abortion services.
“This executive order has the full force and effect of law and makes very clear that current law of no public funding for abortion applies to the new health care reform legislation,” Stupak said.
The White House also contends the executive order merely re-states existing law under the “Hyde amendment” that prohibits direct federal funding of abortion through Medicaid.
“He believes that the bill maintains the status quo and he thinks the executive order reiterates that strong belief,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said of Obama’s take on the underlying bill and the executive order. “What the bill does and what the executive order does is underscore that the status quo is preserved.”
It’s not clear the support of Stupak and a handful of other pro-life Democrats guaranteed the bill’s passage.
“I’m not sure that that’s altogether knowable,” Gibbs said.