“Obama, the Bishops, and FOCA” by Dr. Paul Kengor

A potential big battle has begun, one of special interest to all Christians and guaranteed to generate a lot of attention from all Americans.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a stern warning to president-elect Obama and his incoming administration, highlighting grave concerns over what will happen to unwanted, unborn human life. The statement was delivered at the end of the annual assembly that represents all American bishops—i.e., the full American Catholic Church. It was issued by Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, president of the USCCB.

The subject is the once unthinkable Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which Barack Obama promised will be the “first thing” he signs as president. As the bishops forcefully noted, FOCA would eliminate countless reasonable restrictions on abortion enacted by bipartisan legislatures—Democrats and Republicans working together—over the past 35 years, including parental-consent laws and protection for babies who accidentally survive an abortion. FOCA, wrote the bishops, “would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars.” Every American would be complicit in paying for abortions—you would have no choice.

This would not only be unprecedented in American history but light years removed from Obama’s claim that he “respects” those with different points of view in the pro-life camp.

Most shocking, and of special concern to the bishops, is the fear that FOCA would eliminate the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers—Catholic, non-Catholic, you name it—to not participate in abortion procedures at their hospitals. The bishops noted that this would be an attack on Americans’ free exercise of religion. FOCA “would have lethal consequences” not only for prenatal human life but for the most basic freedoms that living, working Americans have long held dear.

Further, the bishops dread that FOCA would require all hospitals with obstetrics programs to do abortions, a natural expectation given that Obama has spoken of abortion as a “fundamental right,” a basic government service, and a vital component of America’s “safety net.” He calls groups like Planned Parenthood a “safety-net provider.” The bishops fear that this aspect of FOCA would mandate Catholic hospitals to provide abortions, which would force the hospitals to shut down rather than compromise their beliefs.

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