As the 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 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 points out:

• 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

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: (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

If you know your representatives’ names, but not their contact information, call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

The bishops recommend delivering this message to all lawmakers who represent us: “Please pledge now to oppose FOCA.”

Other actions recommended by the bishops:

1. Arrange a formal meeting with your representative and two senators in their home offices or Washington, D.C., offices.

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.