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Can Barbara Comstock Explain Her Abortion Vote?

By Deal W. Hudson
2/13/2014 (4 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

The voters of Northern Virginia deserve an honest answer.

I removed my original article on Comstock from Catholic Online in order to give myself time to consider her "veto session" explanation. Having considered it, I find it not only inadequate but a sad reminder of the kind of explanation used by Rep. Bart Stupak when he backed down on his opposition to abortion funding in the health care bill.I've been told, publicly and privately, that I'm making it easier for a Democrat to win the 10th Congressional District, that Comstock is "electable," and so forth. As a Catholic commentator on politics, my obligation is to press hard on precisely these kinds of inconsistencies in the records and platforms of Catholic politicians.

Delegate Barbara Comstock

Delegate Barbara Comstock

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
2/13/2014 (4 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Barbara Comstock, Northern Virginia,


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - Politics is a world where friends give and receive the benefit of the doubt. And that, I think, is as it should be. The loyalty of friendship naturally smooths over, or ignores, what acquaintances or strangers find troubling. When friends gather round to support one of their own in a political race they sometimes act startled when those being introduced to their candidate don't shrug off troubling issues.

A few days ago, I published an article raising questions about the vote of Delegate Barbara Comstock in the 2013 Virginia General Assembly. Comstock has recently announced her candidacy for the GOP nomination in Virginia's 10th Congressional District which encompasses an area running from McLean to Winchester. Thus, the voters Comstock must win, or any of her opponents, range from the "purple" of affluent McLean to the solid red of counties farther west.

My article elicited various criticisms, private and public, and led to the announcement of a Catholic Outreach committee for Comstock, many of whom are friends of mine. Comstock, by the way, is Catholic and attends St. Luke's Church in McLean. Having been the leader of Catholic Outreach for G. W. Bush in both the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, I am no stranger to the workings of Republican Catholics in DC and Northern Virginia. The worst I have heard from any of these friends is that I was "badly misled," and it is to that charge that I must address myself.

Was I misled or inaccurate in my evaluation of Comstock's vote against the amendment to VA H.B.1900 that stripped the Virginia medical exchange, created under Obamacare, of all insurance coverage for abortions? The vote was considered against life, and scored as such, by the leading pro-life, pro-family, pro-marriage organization in Virginia, the Family Foundation. Of the ten leading pro-life Delegates in Virginia, only one, in addition to Comstock, voted against the amendment.

As a result, Comstock received a 100% rating in 2013 for her vote from NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League, and her rating from the Family Foundation dropped from 100% to 89%. (Her lowered rating from the Family Foundation also includes her "yes" vote in favor of same-sex marriage activist judge, Tracey Thorne-Begland.)

There are many Catholics who find it odd that Comstock would vote against an amendment that stripped abortion coverage out of the implementation of Obamacare in Virginia. Since Delegate Comstock presented herself as a candidate who was both Catholic and pro-life, I looked into the matter. This is the kind of work I have been doing since taking over Crisis Magazine in 1995; as a pro bono adviser to Catholic Outreach at the Republican National Committee; and as a public commentator on Catholics in politics, including two books, How to Vote Catholic (Morley, 2004), and my 2008 book, Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster).

Over the years, my constant concern has been to hold the feet of Catholic politicians "to the fire," so to speak, when it comes to the Church's settled issues such as abortion, marriage, sterilization, and euthanasia. Catholics have had many disappointments - the majority of Catholics in Congress have supported abortion for decades. Only a few years ago, one Catholic Democrat, Rep. Bart Stupak, tried to hold out against immense pressure but eventually caved in, allowing abortion coverage in the health care bill that went to the desk of the President.

Thus, abortion coverage in Obamacare became both substantially and symbolically the sine qua non of pro-life politicians, especially among Catholics, since it was one of our own who couldn't take the pressure. 

That I would be curious, as would any other Catholic voter, about Comstock's vote against the abortion funding amendment, is both natural and necessary. It is natural because we don't want to elect another Stupak; it is necessary because it is the obligation of Catholics to consider settled issues such as abortion and marriage ahead of prudential matters when casting their vote.

Comstock and her supporters all know this.

After the article was published, I immediately received, privately from several different sources, her justification for the vote: A vote during a "veto session" on an amendment automatically becomes her vote on the entire bill. That is, a no vote against the amendment is a no vote against the bill.

That is why, I was told, Comstock voted against the amendment: she wanted to register her opposition to Obamacare - when H.B.1900 was first presented to the General Assembly in February, 2013, Comstock had voted against it. When the Governor sent it back to the General Assembly in April, with the pro-life amendment, Comstock's second "no" vote was registered against the pro-life amendment in order, I am told, to once again register her opposition to Obamacare. (NARAL even awarded her for voting "no" to the pro-life amendment.)

At the surface of it, this might sound like a perfectly reasonable explanation, especially to those who deplore Obamacare for the all reasons it can be deplored. However, for someone who thinks life issues should be considered first, it raises more questions:

Since the Virginia medical exchange was already cleared by both chambers and the Governor, why didn't Comstock want to be part of a majority of Virginia Delegates who voted on April 3, 2013, to remove abortion funding from the VA implementation of Obamacare?

I have sent this question and others to Comstock's representative, Susan Falconer, but have received no response. I also asked the more important and most pertinent question: Does Delegate Comstock recognize a difference in moral priority between voting for an amendment that will eliminate abortion coverage, and an entirely symbolic vote against Obamacare, which was already ratified for Virginia?

If this question is ever addressed by either Comstock or her supporters, I expect to hear that she considered a vote against Obamacare the moral equivalent of voting against the abortion funding amendment. I consider that position indefensible. The entirety of Obamacare, no matter how much emotion it stirs in us, is not the moral equivalent of abortion, for the simple reason that Obamacare encompasses all medical practices.

I removed my original article on Comstock from Catholic Online in order to give myself time to consider her "veto session" explanation. Having considered it, I find it not only inadequate but a sad reminder of the kind of explanation used by Rep. Bart Stupak when he backed down on his opposition to abortion funding in the health care bill.

I've been told, publicly and privately, that I'm making it easier for a Democrat to win the 10th Congressional District, that Comstock is "electable," and so forth. As a Catholic commentator on politics, my obligation is to press hard on precisely these kinds of inconsistencies in the records and platforms of Catholic politicians.

That Comstock strongly supports over the counter contraception, several of which are considered abortifacients, is not in doubt. That Comstock voted against an abortion funding amendment, hailed at the time by pro-life groups as absolutely "necessary" to protect innocent lives, is also not in doubt. Her reason for that vote, however, is still in doubt.

The voters of Northern Virginia deserve an honest answer.

---


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