By Carl Anderson
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- With an abortion-friendly political majority solidly in control of the U.S. government, an abortion-mandating health care bill seemed to many a “fait accompli.” People didn’t count on the power of a “creative minority.”
On his recent trip to the Czech Republic, Benedict XVI called for the Church to act as a “creative minority” in the public square.
In his most recent use of this term, he said: “I would say that usually it is creative minorities who determine the future, and in this regard the Catholic Church must understand that she is a creative minority who has a heritage of values that are not things of the past, but a very lively and relevant reality. The Church must modernize, she must be present in the public debate.”
On Saturday, the world saw this vision for a creative minority in action. The addition of an amendment that would ban public funding for abortion to the health care reform legislation was just such a creative presence in the public debate.
The passage of the Stupak Amendment — named for Catholic and Knight of Columbus Representative Bart Stupak, a Democrat, and the amendment’s author — shows just how far America has come on the abortion debate.
A New York Times blog reported that some opponents had called it the most significant restriction on abortion since the Hyde Amendment. That amendment — passed in 1976 — banned the use of Federal funds for abortion in the United States. It was named for Catholic — and Knight of Columbus — Representative Henry Hyde, a Republican.
The Stupak Amendment goes even further in banning government funding of abortion.
Bishops’ Support Critical
The efforts to exclude abortion funding from health care were supported by the U.S. episcopal conference, who urged support of the Stupak Amendment at Masses throughout the country as the “sine qua non” of the health care debate.
That strong leadership and support for principled legislation is to be commended, and has been widely discussed in the media as a key factor in the health care-abortion debate.
For years, pundits have warned of a backlash against strong leadership by the Catholic bishops of the United States on the issue of abortion. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the vote to keep abortion out of health care reform in the U.S. House of Representatives shows, strong leadership has resulted in a huge victory.
Those who closely follow the abortion debate in this country might be less surprised at the outcome of the Stupak Amendment than some in the media and Congress.
After all, poll after poll this spring and summer has shown a significant shift in Americans attitudes on abortion. Polling from Gallup and Pew showed decisive majorities opposed to the unrestricted abortion legacy of Roe v. Wade. A pro-life majority was even visible for the first time.
The most detailed of these polls, one commissioned by the Knights of Columbus found that 86% of Americans want significant restrictions on abortion.
And in September, a Rasmussen poll found that only 13% of Americans wanted abortion covered in government subsidized health care.
The writing was on the wall. The polling showed that years of unwavering teaching by the bishops, and tireless efforts by Catholics and others committed to life had begun to pay off.
What was needed in the health care debate was principled action — and the American people got just that. With the clear voice of U.S. bishops and from the principled action by those like Bart Stupak, and the 64 Democrats who broke party ranks to join him, a clear pro-life victory was achieved.
With their party in control of both the presidency and both houses of Congress, enough Democrat lawmakers were willing to stand up to their own party leadership to represent a “creative minority” within their own party.
The result is this: What polling showed earlier this year, the political process proved this weekend. America is becoming a country increasingly uneasy with Roe v. Wade’s abortion legacy. To build a better future requires only that the creative minority act with principle on its convictions.
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Carl Anderson is the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus and a New York Times bestselling author.