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BY The Editors
election quickly approaches, the U.S. bishops are shining a harsh spotlight on
one bill: the Freedom of Choice Act, commonly called FOCA. FOCA is again before
Congress; its chief sponsor in the Senate is Barbara Boxer and one of its
co-sponsors is presidential candidate Barack Obama.
In July 2007, Obama told a Planned
Parenthood audience: “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom
of Choice Act.” Search YouTube.com for the words “Obama” and “FOCA” to hear it
for yourself. Since Obama has said that signing FOCA into law would be his
first priority as a new president, summarizing the bill answers the question:
For what change does Barack Obama have the audacity to hope?
The U.S. bishops’ summary of FOCA
• It creates a “fundamental right”
to abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy. No governmental body at
any level would be able to “deny or interfere with” this right, or to
“discriminate” against the exercise of this right “in the regulation or
provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.” For the first
time, abortion would become an entitlement the
government must condone and promote.
• Some states require that women
be told about the risks of abortion. FOCA would erase all informed-consent laws
states have enacted.
• Many states require that parents
be informed and sign off on their daughters’ abortions, just as they are
informed and involved in every other surgical procedure. FOCA would override
and end all parental-involvement laws.
• Some states have laws promoting
maternal health. Obama’s FOCA wouldn’t allow them.
• Regulation on abortion “clinics”
helps keep these businesses responding to health and safety concerns. FOCA
would end these regulations.
• FOCA would disallow “government
programs and facilities that pay for or promote childbirth and other health
care without subsidizing abortion,” say the U.S. bishops.
• Conscience-protection laws would
end. These currently allow Catholic and other pro-life hospitals, doctors,
medical students and health-care workers to opt out of participating in
abortion in many places.
• After FOCA, any laws that
prohibit a particular abortion procedure, such as partial-birth abortion, will
no longer be in force.
• FOCA would also strike laws
requiring that abortions only be performed by a licensed physician.
For a careful legal analysis of FOCA
by the U.S. bishops’ Office of General Counsel, or a summary fact sheet to
distribute, see NCHLA.org.
In a Sept. 19 letter to members of
Congress, Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on
Pro-Life Activities, raised the bishops’ concerns about any possible
consideration of FOCA.
“Despite its deceptive title, FOCA
would deprive the American people in all 50 states of the freedom they now have
to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry,” wrote
Cardinal Rigali. It would also “counteract any and all sincere efforts by
government to reduce abortions in our country.”
“We can’t reduce abortions by
promoting abortion,” he said. Find the full text of his letter at:
USCCB.org (click on “Life Issues”).
The U.S. bishops are asking
Catholics to contact their U.S. representatives and U.S. senators by fax,
letter, e-mail or phone.
Find the names of your U.S.
representative and senators by typing in your zip code at VoteSmart.org.
If you know your representatives’
names, but not their contact information, call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at
The bishops recommend delivering
this message to all lawmakers who represent us: “Please pledge now to oppose
Other actions recommended by the
1. Arrange a formal meeting with
your representative and two senators in their home offices or Washington, D.C.,
2. Communicate with your
representative and two senators at town meetings.
3. Place an ad opposing FOCA in your
local Catholic paper or other publication, or insert educational materials in
church bulletins. For an ad presentation designed for grassroots use, see
For bulletin inserts in black and
white or color:
(If going directly to the page
doesn’t work, find each from the home pages.)
4. Write letters to the editors of
newspapers, and express your views on call-in radio talk shows.
Some Catholics have made the point
that Sen. John McCain would be no savior for the pro-life cause. They’re
absolutely right. His 100% pro-life voting record on abortion is marred by his
disagreement with pro-lifers about fatal research on human embryos. But McCain
has a decades-long pro-life history to point to, and he does oppose the Freedom
of Choice Act.
The right to life is the basis of
all other rights and the central human rights question of our day. Join the
U.S. bishops’ efforts to spread the word about FOCA and the consequences it
will have on our nation.