Members of the current Congress have signaled an interest in soon introducing legislation, the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). That bill, if like S.B. 1173 and H.R. 1964 introduced during the 100th Congress, will establish the right to abortion as a “fundamental right” by elevating it to the same status as the right to vote and the right to free speech. FOCA would go beyond any Supreme Court decision by enacting unlimited abortion-on-demand into American law.Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, wrote to members of the 110th Congress in September of 2008 in his role as Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Cardinal said:
The operative language of FOCA is two-fold. First it creates a “fundamental right” to abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy, including a right to abort a fully developed child in the final weeks for undefined “health” reasons. No government body at any level would be able to “deny or interfere with” this newly created federal right. Second, it forbids government at all levels to “discriminate” against the exercise of this right “in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.” For the first time, abortion on demand would be a national entitlement that government must condone and promote in all public programs affecting pregnant women.
FOCA, in addition to its apparent radical nature will potentially create problems for doctors, nurses and hospitals not wishing to be involved in providing or referring for abortion. FOCA could overturn conscience clause provisions that protect the right of Catholic hospitals and providers to refuse to participate in any medical procedure, including abortion and sterilization, that violates the Church’s ethical and moral teachings. This potential is of grave concern to Catholic health care facilities and individual providers of health care services.
That FOCA must be opposed by the Church is apparent, as the clear purpose of the legislation is to promote abortion and eliminate basic and modest limitations on the abortion business which states have put in place. In Pennsylvania, even the Abortion Control Act could be nullified by this federal legislation. The Church’s respect for the sanctity of life from the moment of conception, and its staunch opposition to abortion, are unwavering and, accordingly, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association oppose any effort to advance FOCA.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is coordinating a campaign urging Congress to maintain widely-supported pro-life laws oppose the federal funding and promotion of abortion. More details are available at www.usccb.org/postcard.