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Get Familiar with FOCA Legislation

Bishop James V. Johnston
Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau

Bishop's column for October 24, 2008

Dangerous & stealth

In the past several weeks a number of my columns have focused on the sanctity of human life. This topic was treated for several reasons: 1) For some time October has been Respect Life Month; and 2) the life issue takes a certain precedence as we prepare to vote. Recently a good friend, having considered my columns, suggested to me that we should not focus so much on changing abortion laws as we should focus on the ways that effectively limit abortion. My response was that we should focus on both, as both are crucial in the struggle for the unborn, the human rights struggle of our era.

But, let’s look closer at my friend’s point. What are those common-sense things that have lowered the number of abortions in America in recent years? Several things can be highlighted. First, parental notification laws; these common-sense provisions require that those under 18 first be required to talk about this huge matter before procuring an abortion. In addition to parental notification laws, some states have laws requiring counseling from someone other than a parent, in the event that the parent is unfit for some reason. A second approach that has reduced abortions is the increased use of ultrasound technology. The more a mother can realize the baby she carries is a baby, the more likely her motherly instinct and compassion will kick in to care for her own child. Finally, the number of abortions has been lessened because of the near unanimous outcry of Americans against the most heinous of abortions: late-term abortions, and partial birth abortions in which the body of the baby is delivered up to the neck, while the child is killed by having the brain stem severed before the head can pass through the birth canal. These are some of the main reasons abortions have been reduced even though thousands still occur every day (dropping some nine percent from 2000 to 2005 according to Planned Parenthood’s Alan Guttmacher Institute statistics).

What is FOCA?

Agreeing with my friend that these things are important and deserve our attention and support, I asked him if he was familiar with FOCA. His reply was, “What?” FOCA stands for the Freedom of Choice Act, and most Americans, like my friend, are unaware of it and its repercussions if it becomes the law of the land (Read more about FOCA on p.1 of the October 24, 2008 issue of The Mirror).

The Freedom of Choice Act was first introduced in 1989 by Sen. Alan Cranston (D-CA) and Rep. Don Edwards (D-CA). Its prime purpose was to codify Roe v. Wade. It never mustered enough support in those days and much of the time faced a certain veto even if it had. However, this year with the shifting of power in Congress, its prospects for passage have been resurrected, with one of the presidential candidates pledging, if elected, to sign it into law as his first act as president.

Which brings us to the present danger: if FOCA is passed, it would most certainly nullify the common-sense restrictions that have helped lower the number of abortions alluded to above. According to Tom McCloskey, vice president of government affairs for the Family Research Council, if FOCA is passed it would automatically overturn: • state abortion reporting requirements in all 50 states; • forty-four states’ laws concerning parental involvement; • forty states’ laws on restricting later term abortions; • forty-six states’ conscience protection laws for individual health care providers; • twenty-seven states’ conscience protection laws for institutions; • thirty-eight states’ bans on partial-birth abortions; • thirty-three states’ laws on requiring counseling before an abortion; • sixteen states’ laws concerning ultrasounds before an abortion.

McCloskey goes on to note: “The passage of FOCA would not only force the issue of taxpayer-funded abortions on both the federal and state governments, but would also overturn the wishes of all 50 state legislatures and millions of people in the states.” In essence, FOCA would be a raw act of federal power, wiping out all of the provisions in the states to reduce abortions in one fell swoop.

Indeed, there are many important issues that absorb us in these days which cannot be ignored, such as the current economic turmoil. These get most of the press as our elected officials, economists, and thinkers grapple with solutions. The Freedom of Choice Act has been under the radar for most; yet, if passed, this law will have repercussions in America long after the economy is eventually stabilized.

I encourage all of you to investigate where the candidates stand on FOCA. Simply go to the Internet and type in: Freedom of Choice Act, and then the candidate’s name.



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