Monday, February 2, 2009

FOCA: Trial Balloon or Serious Threat?

A reader last week sent me a link to this post at Father Zuhlsdorf's website, wherein the question as to the legitimacy of the FOCA threat was posed via a letter Fr. Z received (all emphasis by Fr. Z):
As a Congressional staffer, I am extremely concerned that we pro-lifers are falling into what I am starting to see as the “FOCA Trap.”

If my fellow conservatives in Congress – policy makers who actually know what’s possible and what’s not – were speaking privately, I think they would admit that FOCA doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of ever even getting a committee hearing let alone being passed or signed into law. That is because it’s so radical that even most of the pro-abortion Democrats probably wouldn’t even support it.

Now, all this begs the question: why are all the bishops and most of the pro-life activists singularly focused on it? [Good question. Are they falling for a head feint?]

The quick answer is because Obama said at some point that he would sign it into law. Then all the activists, talk radio, the USCCB, etc. all kicked into gear and started on the offense. But is that a good thing?

As I said, anyone serious who knows the Hill knows it will never pass – including Obama. So, while the wagons are all circled around FOCA, Obama, the Democrats and the pro-abortion lobby can pick apart the incremental progress we’ve made over the years on partial-birth, overseas abortion funding, funding for abortions on military bases, embryonic stem cell research, etc. And they’ll do it while we’re all signing post cards in church about FOCA. It’s a brilliant diversion. [...]
I'm not so sure.

On the one hand, we all know how gifted Democrats are in the art of floating the trial balloon. It could be that all the FOCA focus is just that--testing the air, seeing what level of outrage can be manufactured by one's opponents, who may then settle down quietly and fail to notice when key provisions of FOCA become law anyway, along with the erosion of the pro-life measures already enacted as described by Fr. Zuhlsdorf's correspondent.

On the other, though, I think it's safe to say that FOCA is really and truly what pro-abortion Democrats, including President Obama himself, really want. More and more often these days I see the opinion expressed on websites and forums that men and women who are uncomfortable with the killing of unborn babies have no business working in the healthcare industry. The notion that abortion is "healthcare" and that those who oppose it on "religious grounds" are no different from, say, a doctor who became a Jehovah's Witness and then suddenly refused to give blood transfusions to patients who needed them is gaining an incredible amount of steam in our abortion-saturated society. The very idea that there is something different about abortion which makes it morally unacceptable to many is being attacked; the push to undo conscience clauses and otherwise mainstream abortion as just another medical procedure is growing in force.

The Freedom of Choice Act, in addition to quite likely requiring that all hospitals and all healthcare professionals offer or participate in abortions, defines abortion as a "fundamental right" and makes any government "interference" with it illegal. But interference is not defined, and neither is government, leading many to suspect that under this law a doctor in a hospital which accepts government funds must perform abortions if he also delivers babies; the hospital must offer abortions if it has a maternity wing, and so on. The implications are clear: FOCA's real purpose is to erase forever the idea that abortion is, in a legal or moral sense, different from childbirth, or that there is any reason, aside from one's personal and/or religious convictions (e.g. one's religious bigotry), to object to it.

There can be no doubt from Obama's language on the issue that this is what he wants. When he speaks of ending the polarizing abortion wars, it's clear that he wants our side to shut up and go away--and while he'd probably prefer that we do so voluntarily, he, and the pro-abortion Democrats whose passion for abortion is inexhaustible, are not opposed to taking legal means to make all opposition to abortion ineffectual and unproductive.

So while it may seem that objecting to FOCA is falling for a fake controversy and giving Democrats the opportunity to sneak through other pro-abortion measures, I see it differently. Certainly the heightened awareness around the FOCA debate has made it harder for Obama to strike down his predecessor's pro-life policies; Obama had to wait until the day after the massive pro-life march in Washington to undo the Mexico City Policy, his first act as president to facilitate the killing of unborn babies.

And all of the discussion and debate is providing our Catholic bishops with another opportunity to highlight the Church's teachings on the sanctity of human life, from conception to natural death, which is a good thing. Too many Catholics still think that it's fine to approve of and vote for legal abortion on demand while considering themselves Catholics in good standing, weekly communicants, and so on; the debate over FOCA is a chance to correct that erroneous impression.

While I agree that if all the energy is spent on opposing FOCA there is a chance that smaller pro-abortion measures will slip under the radar, I think the opposite--refusing to oppose FOCA on the grounds that it has no chance of passing--is more dangerous. The lack of a concerted effort to oppose this evil law would only encourage those who truly do want it to become the law of the land; and the failure of Christians and Catholics to oppose FOCA might make it even more possible for the pro-death side to convince their congresspeople that serious opposition to abortion in America is hard to find, and that passing pro-abortion measures won't cost them politically at all.

So we should oppose FOCA on principle, and keep a close eye on Congress and the President when it comes to other pro-abortion baby-killing efforts as well. If we want the ugly darkness of abortion to be revealed for the evil it truly is, we need to keep shining the light of truth on the issue, whether the opportunity to do so is in a big sweeping law that few expect to pass, or a smaller but no less lethal measure that is already spending American tax money to kill babies in poor countries around the world; we must keep focused on abortion no matter what laws or measures or policies Congress and the President approve with the goal of killing ever more unborn humans.


Maria said...

Living in DC currently and formerly working in politics, I agree with the Hill staffer that FOCA doesn't have much of a chance of passing in the near future. However, I draw different conclusions. First, the average parishioner in Anywhere, USA, signing a postcard opposing FOCA isn't the one who is going to spot these covert anti-life policies hidden in other bills or adminstrative policies. It is going to be the insiders in DC - the Hill staffers, employees of pro-life activist groups, the Richard Doerflingers of the world. The fact that folks across the country aren't on the "look-out" for these things isn't a big deal; the folks whose job it is to find them have their eyes wide open. They will alert the rest of us.

Secondly, having folks excited and well-informed about the policies of FOCA can be used to create a solid grassroots network that can be activated as soon as the folks in DC pinpoint a FOCA-style policy hidden in a random bill. Having pro-lifers organized and enthusiastic is always a good thing and will help us in the fight to stop these incremental steps.

Thirdly, it is always a good thing, IMHO, to see the bishops acting strongly and in union on a pro-life issue.

Finally, FOCA is a good fundraising and PR tactic for conservative, pro-life groups. Since I want these groups to raise money and be sucessful, I think this is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I think the bishops uncharacteristically and in concert are drawing our attention to FOCA and abortion now (as opposed to before the election) because of a massive government probe of Mahoney and other bishops throughout the United States for collusion in the coverup of sexual abuse of children. It's coming soon. Now the American Catholic establishment can cry foul and religious persecution for their recent vocal efforts against abortion, and preserve, in the minds of those who fill the collection plate, some shred of integrity.

I kept thinking "why now all this fuss, now that the election is over!" But, I think that what is ill timed is now, in my mind, perfectly timed. Just yesterday I opened my WSJ and there was Mahoney's grim face and an accompanying story about the upcoming national probe.

Charlotte said...

Thanks for posting this. Father Z posted more today with indications that FOCA-fighters are missing the boat while the Obama administrations marches on with the PFA (Prevention First Act) is going to slip through under the radar. Again, what are your thoughts?

Charlotte said...