by Kristen Day
The first time I met Congressman Oberstar was on the House floor in the mid-1990s during debate on an amendment to prevent federal funding of abortion. As Congressman Oberstar was waiting for his opportunity to speak in support of the amendment, he sat down next to me, and we started talking. I was a nervous, young hill staffer who could not believe this Member of Congress would take the time to talk to me. But, like Congressman Oberstar, I was a pro-life Democrat. I knew who he was because my boss, Congressman Jim Barcia, also a pro-life Democrat, served on the transportation committee with him.
On the floor that day, Congressman Oberstar shared with me a history of abortion in the Democratic party and how much it had changed. He also explained the origin of the Hyde Amendment and that one’s position on abortion was not always an indicator of party affiliation.
The Amendment that bears Hyde’s name was a bipartisan effort handwritten on a scrap of paper on the House floor in 1976. This amendment that prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion was crafted because the collaborators thought it had the best chance of withstanding any points of order, such as legislating on an appropriations bill. Since the President, Gerald Ford, was a Republican and Henry Hyde served on the Judiciary Committee, they decided to have Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL) introduced the amendment. It was more important to pass pro-life legislation than to be concerned about whose name was on the top of the document.
While strongly opposed to abortion, Congressman Oberstar equally advocated for prental and postnatal care, affordable childcare, and fair wages for families.
Since that first meeting, Congressman Oberstar was a constant source of encouragement, strength, and support to Democrats For Life and to me personally. He encouraged me to stick to my consistent-life position and to never compromise moral or ethical beliefs His longstanding career proved he followed those words of advice he gave to me so many times.
Pro-life Democrats have lost a great leader. Tu vas me manquer mais je continuerai à travailler en ton honneur.