Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on Saturday criticized pro-life groups who he said "rallied behind me... because they viewed me as their best chance to kill healthcare legislation."

Stupak last week voted in affirmation of Democrats' healthcare bill, even though the legislation's ban on federal dollars from funding abortions was not as strict as the amendment he proposed in the early days of debate. But while his decision to accept the Senate's approach has earned him the fiery scorn of countless pro-life groups, Stupak stressed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post this weekend that his actions have nonetheless protected the "sanctity of life."

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"Once it was clear that the House leadership would eventually obtain the 216 votes necessary to pass health-care reform, I was left with a choice: Vote against the bill and watch it become law with no further protections for life or reach an agreement that prevents federal funding for abortions," the congressman said.


"Therefore, I and other pro-life Democrats struck an agreement with President Obama to issue an executive order that would ensure all Hyde Amendment protections would apply to the health-care reform bill," he continued. "No, an executive order is not as strong as the statutory language we fought for at the start. We received, however, an "ironclad" commitment from the president that no taxpayer dollars will be used to pay for abortions."

Republicans once hoped to seize on pro-life Democrats' concerns with the healthcare bill's abortion language, beliving this bloc -- which Stupak said numbered at least a dozen -- could keep House Democratic leaders from reaching the 216 votes they needed for passage.

But a last-minute compromise brokered by House leaders and the Obama administration saw Stupak and a few others voting with the party, killing GOP lawmakers' last hopes of scuttling the healthcare bill in the House.

Still, critics contend the president's executive order repeating the White House's commitment not to fund abortions is insufficient. Stupak, however, fired back at that logic on Saturday, noting former President George W. Bush issued a embryonic stem-cell research ban via executive order that the federal bureaucracy ultimately enforced.

"I have said from the start that my goal was to see health-care reform pass while maintaining the long-standing principle of the sanctity of life," Stupak wrote. "I and other pro-life Democrats are pleased that we were able to hold true to our principles and vote for a bill that is pro-life at every stage of life and that provides 32 million Americans with access to high-quality, affordable health care."