Bart Stupak: I Don’t Listen To Nuns

In two interviews yesterday, Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak revealed a great deal about himself, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, politics and the internal workings of our “pro-choice” Democratic party.

First, in what shouldn’t be surprising to anyone, Stupak told Fox News that he doesn’t listen to nuns.

Why would he?  They’re only women, after all.  And we know the men run the institutional Catholic church.  If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be an international pedophilia scandal.

Yesterday, according to ThinkProgress:

“60 leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns” sent a letter to federal lawmakers urging them to pass the Senate health care legislation. They decried the “false” information floating around about abortion provisions and said that the bill’s “historic new investments” for pregnant women are the “REAL pro-life stance.” The nuns’ letter was a significant and unusual break with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which continues to denounce the legislation.

Bart, however, consults the experts in controlling women: Men of privilege.  “Male religious figures and far-right religious organizations,” notes ThinkProgress.

According to Fox:

Congressman Bart Stupak, D-Mich, responded sharply to White House officials touting a letter representing 59,000 nuns that was sent to lawmakers urging them to pass the health care bill.

The conservative Democrat dismissed the action by the White House saying, “When I’m drafting right to life language, I don’t call up the nuns.” He says he instead confers with other groups including “leading bishops, Focus on the Family, and The National Right to Life Committee.”  [emphasis added.]

Consult the nuns?  People who, despite their vows of chastity, also menstruate, and work directly with–indeed touch every day–the people who are most in need?

Yet, despite his unyielding efforts to front for the USCCB and the male “right-to-life-except-for-women” elite, Bart apparently wants us to feel sorry for the backlash he is experiencing in his crusade against women’s most basic rights. 

The Hill reports that “Leading a revolt against President Barack Obama’s healthcare legislation over abortion has been a “living hell” for Rep. Bart Stupak.”

The telephone lines in his Washington and district offices have been “jammed” and he’s gotten more than 1,500 faxes and countless e-mails — most of which he says don’t come from his constituents.

The fight has taken a toll on his wife, who has disconnected the phone in their home to avoid harassment.

“All the phones are unplugged at our house — tired of the obscene calls and threats. She won’t watch TV,” Stupak said during an hourlong interview with The Hill in his Rayburn office. “People saying they’re going to spit on you and all this. That’s just not fun.”

Welcome, Mr. Stupak, to the daily life of reproductive health providers, who are subject to such harassment every day courtesy of your friends at Focus on the Family, National Right to Life, and the USCCB. 

Stupak told the Hill “he didn’t anticipate how big the abortion issue would become during the healthcare reform debate, nor did he figure to find himself a household name.”

“I’m a little surprised,” Stupak said.

The worst part has been the pressure from groups and individuals from outside his district on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“How’s it been? Like a living hell,” Stupak said.

The 57-year-old Democrat told the Hill he “has a history of working behind the scenes with Democratic leaders on abortion.”

“In the past, we’ve always been able to work it out,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve not been able to work it out.”

I am sure many of us would like to know what exactly has been worked out “behind the scenes” with Bart Stupak, the USCCB and others to placate a minority position that affects the health and rights of all women in this country. 

Don’t you?

Other anti-abortion-rights Democrats have said they’ll support the Senate bill.

Rep. Dale Kildee, another Democrat from Michigan known for opposing abortion, released a statement on Wednesday supporting the Senate bill, which he said would prevent federal funds from going to abortion services.

But the intensity of the resistance to Stupak’s position has, if anything, stiffened his resolve. He shows no signs of voting for the Senate healthcare bill, which could hit the House floor this week.

“I’m pretty stubborn,” said Stupak, who keeps in his shirt pocket a list of lawmakers who are willing to vote no. The so-called Stupak Dozen met Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill to strategize and exchange stories of the pressure they are under.

Let’s not worry about the pressure facing women and families without health care, or women with no access to basic reproductive and sexual health services, or women facing pregnancies they can not afford and did not intend. Let’s all hold hands and feel sorry for Bart and Co.


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  • offred

    You quoted Rep. Stupak as saying:


    I don’t listen to nuns


    which he never said. In fact, he said:


    When I’m draft drafting right to life legislation, I don’t call up the nuns.


    There’s a big difference. Your misattribution implies a lack of respect that isn’t there. Mr. Stupak doesn’t call me or my organization, either. I don’t take it personally.


    And we know the men run the institutional Catholic church. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be an international pedophilia scandal.


    How do you know? There are studies showing that the incidence of pedophilia is no higher among priests than other professions that include women (i.e. teachers). The church might be better served by including women in the hierarchy, but that’s not the reason for the scandal. A culture of secrecy is a more likely culprit.


  • jodi-jacobson

    Dismissed out of hand a letter by 59,000 nuns. 


    I think his attitude is pretty clear.  As for the rest….we simply have to agree to disagree.  Strongly.

  • trustingwomen

    The news of the nuns breaking with the Bishops warms my heart.  And, might I add, is quite consistent with (a) Catholic “tradition.”


    From Sister Christine Vladimiroff, current prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, on disobeying the Vatican regarding Sister Joan Chittister attendance to a Women’s Ordination conference in Ireland in 2001.

    It was “out of the Benedictine tradition of obedience,” she says, that she formed her decision. The Vatican notion of authority exerts power and control out of a false sense of unity inspired by fear. Benedictine obedience and authority, on the other hand, are achieved through dialogue between a community member and her prioress in a spirit of co-responsibility. Obedience has a higher meaning than merely following orders from a legitimate superior. “Sister Joan Chittister, who has lived the monastic life with faith and fidelity for fifty years, must make her own decision based on her sense of Church, her monastic profession, and her own personal integrity. I cannot be used by the Vatican to deliver an order of silencing.

  • invalid-0

    I know about 12-15 nuns personally, and all of them are actively against passage of the health care bill.  In fact, I’ve already received e-mails from one saying that the letter does NOT represent the widespread position of Catholic nuns.  I’m suspecting that the nuns’ letter referenced above represents only those with their name on the list, and nothing more.


    I’m sure its fun to speculate that the Church is divided on this issue.  From someone intimately involved with a number of Dioceses, I can assure you that not only is there unity on the issue, but just about everyone I know is actively involved in promoting the Stupak language.


    If what the letter says is true, that the bill will not increase funding for abortion, then why won’t they include the Stupak language?

  • bay-arizona

    So you are saying the nuns who signed that letter are liars and un-Christian?

  • invalid-0

    Not in the least.  I take them at their word, that they are leaders involved with organizations that represent 59,000 nuns.  I am involved with the leadership in my hometown, that doesn’t mean that when I sign a letter, I purport to represent the opinion of its citizens.  Or that if I find one person that agrees with me in each neighboring town, that our combined letter represents the entire region.


    So, what’s going to happen is that this letter will be seriously overblown.  It absolutely does NOT represent the majority opinion of Catholic religious sisters.  Others (read: Jodi Jacobson) will try and use it to paint it as a men vs. women issue.  It’s not – and you’ll find that her only support for the assertion is speculation and conjecture.  In fact, a great majority of the pro-life leadership in my own parish, and Diocese (especially from teens and young adults) is female.  I highly doubt the author has ever worked with clergy, religious and other staff within the Catholic Church.

  • waterjoe

    The statement was not on behalf of 59,000 nuns.  There are only 59,000 religious in the U.S.  Many, including the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious agree with the bishops.

    What kind of “logic” does it take to conclude that because Mr. Stupak consults with experts with whom you disagree that it is a case of mysogyny?

  • waterjoe

    Washington—A recent letter from Network, a social justice lobby of sisters, grossly overstated whom they represent in a letter to Congress that was also released to media.
    Network’s letter, about health care reform, was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters.
     The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons.  One endorser signed twice.
    There are 793 religious communities in the United States.
    The math is clear. Network is far off the mark.
    Sister Mary Ann Walsh
    Director of Media Relations
    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

  • wendy-banks

    Boo hoo, I feel so sorry for Stupak— NOT!

  • elyzabeth

    The health care bill is completely abortion neutral.  It does not expand accessability and it does not limit accessibility.  It abides by the Hyde Ammendment (stating no federal dollars will pay for abortion). 


    Stupak is trying to turn the health care bill into a vehicle for limiting accessibility to abortion.  To accomplish this, he could have introduced his own legislation.  However, he wanted attention so he attempted to hijack the health care bill to get noticed. He knew it would piss people off, but he wanted his 15 minutes of fame.


    Frankly, if his life is a living hell–he completely brought it on himself.  Don’t anti-choicers love the concept of personal responsibility?  Accepting the consequences of their actions?  As in, “if sluts didn’t want babies, they should have kept their legs closed?”  If Stupak’s suffering, it will be perfectly consistent.


  • mirele

    …is to make the decisions taken by a group of men, ALWAYS excluding women, and present them to the world. She’s a front, a shill, for a group of men. Not any group of men, but a group of men who have never been parents,  never raised a family and NEVER HAD THE FEAR OF BEING PREGNANT.


    I don’t dismiss what she says out of hand–it’s always good to see what the USCCB is pushing out there. But she had to say this. She’s PAID to say this.


    The truth is, we don’t know how many nuns would have agreed to healthcare legislation. What we DO know is that Bart Stupak wouldn’t have called any of them up–but he would call up the USCCB and FotF. That, to me, says volumes.

  • jodi-jacobson

    greatly….because it contains the Nelson amendment.


    The implications/effects of the Nelson amendment are as bad and some think possibly worse than Stupak.  But the bill that will be passed contains it and there is virtually no way to remove it…for now.


    Stupak is trying to further cement a complete abortion ban by adding his language.


  • fanniesroom

    “What kind of ‘logic’ does it take to conclude that because Mr. Stupak consults with experts with whom you disagree that it is a case of mysogyny?”


    It’s interesting that some consider celibate, non-married, non-medically-trained men to be “experts” about an issue that uniquely affects the reproductive functions of women and, likewise, that some call it illogical to suggest that sexism explains why a politician would automatically listen to these womb-lacking men over a group of women, regarding the issue.

  • iowa

    God Bless you all who are out there defending Stupak and Catholics alike.


    God gave us all the right to life and that is from conception until natural death. It is just so sad to see how many out there are so willing to end the life of a child because it is not “convienent.”


    Keep up the good fight!


    God Bless!

  • elyzabeth

    Wait, I thought that they could only add changes that alter its effect on the budget at this point in the legislative process.  He can’t actually change the abortion provision now because of procedural rules.  Or at least that’s what I saw on MSNBC….

  • gordon

    Does anybody out there besides me recall the origin of the name Offred?  (Hint: a 1986 novel by Margaret Atwood.)  I think this speaks for itself.

  • leftcoaster

    what Stupak really meant, when the entire concept of “listening to nuns” or “listening to Bishops” is a direct assault on the spirit of the First Amendment?


    The proportion of nuns and priests, and bishops, among Stupak’s constituency is nil. He was not elected to represent the flippin’ Vatican.

  • leftcoaster

    used in the context of pregnancy/abortion except by a man.

  • jodi-jacobson

    They were discussing different procedural options that would have worked.  Complicated, but at this point he’s lost that specific battle, however it now appears that to appease him and others, there will be an executive order cementing the Hyde amendment.


    it’s lose lose for women in regard to basic choice and most specifically discriminates against low-income women.

  • paul-bradford



    There are a lot of Catholics who favor the health care bill and think the USCCB is wrong to oppose it.  Catholics United, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, several organizations of religious women, groups inside my own parish, as well as PLCC support the health care bill.  But none of us are disputing Church teaching against abortion.  The issue is an issue of political judgment.  Is the health care bill going to do more to save lives or is it going to do more to put lives at risk?


    I’ve stated numerous times that I believe that the abortion rate will go down once we’ve got Universal Health Care.  There are a lot of Catholics who disagree with me on that one, but we don’t disagree about whether we want the abortion rate to go down.  The nuns who signed the letter are all opposed to abortion, they are simply speaking out for one of the many Pro-Life approaches to lowering the abortion rate.