FOCA's Triumph

Senate Health Bill Is a Regulatory 'Freedom of Choice Act'

It looks like FOCA really was an Obama priority after all.

You remember FOCA. “Well, the first thing I’d do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act” — FOCA — said Barack Obama on July 17, to a roar of Planned Parenthood rally applause.

Catholics and others, in a tsunami of postcards to Washington, begged he not push FOCA. Obama clarified, saying FOCA “is not my highest legislative priority.” Health care was.

But, ahem, look at the health care bill in the Senate and see if you see what I see: On abortion, it accomplishes nearly all of what FOCA wanted.

Here are the U.S. bishops’ warnings about FOCA vs. the Senate health bill specifics.

• FOCA MAKES ABORTION A RIGHT. 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.

HEALTH BILL MAKES ABORTION A REGULATORY REQUIREMENT. In the Senate health bill, the federal government provides or requires health insurance that does exactly that. So what’s the difference?

• FOCA ERASES STATE LAWS. Some states require that women be told about the risks of abortion. FOCA would erase all informed-consent laws states have enacted.

HEALTH BILL SIDE-STEPS STATE LAWS. Under a federal health regime, those state laws wouldn’t necessarily apply to those receiving federal health help.

• FOCA BANS MATERNAL HEALTH LAWS. Some states have laws promoting maternal health. Obama’s FOCA wouldn’t allow them.


• FOCA: REQUIRES ABORTION PROMOTION. 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.

HEALTH BILL REGULATIONS would accomplish precisely that.

• FOCA ENDS CONSCIECE PROTECTION LAWS. 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.


• FOCA OVERRIDES PRO-LIFE LAWS — any laws that prohibit a particular abortion procedure, such as partial-birth abortion, will no longer be in force.


Now, that still leaves some of FOCA’s work undone (though some would argue that the Senate health bill might acomplish even these):

• FOCA would also strike laws requiring that abortions only be performed by a licensed physician.

• FOCA would end these regulations on abortion “clinics” helps keep these businesses responding to health and safety concerns.

•FOCA would override parental involvement laws.
Two lessons to learn from this:

1. Last year it seemed unthinkable to many Catholics that FOCA was a real threat. They chalked it up to a random applause line at a political rally. This position seemed plausible last year. It is no longer.

2. Catholics were wise to include the phrase “Please oppose FOCA or any similar measure” in postcards to members of Congress. Now, they need to hold accountable those who, by voting for the Senate Health bill, have voted to reach FOCA’s goals.