FOCA: the legislation that is not, but might be...

I recently received word that the Archdiocese of Boston will participate (March 7-8) in the post-card campagin mentioned in this story and in the related story below.


Rumors aside, FOCA no threat to Catholic health care

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Internet rumors to the contrary, no Catholic hospital in the United States is in danger of closing because of the Freedom of Choice Act.

As a matter of fact, the Freedom of Choice Act died with the 110th Congress and, a week after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, has not been reintroduced.

But that hasn't kept misleading e-mails from flying around the Internet, warning of the dire consequences if Obama signs FOCA into law and promoting a "FOCA novena" in the days leading up to Inauguration Day. (see the item below* for the USCCB statement on the "FOCA novena.")

The Catholic Health Association "is strongly committed to opposing FOCA and (the board) is unanimous that we would do all we could to oppose it," said Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., an elected member of the CHA board of trustees since June 2006.

"But there is no plan to shut down any hospital if it passes," he added in a Jan. 26 telephone interview. "There's no sense of ominous danger threatening health care institutions."

Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is CHA president and CEO, was equally sure that FOCA poses no threat to Catholic hospitals or to the conscience rights of those who work there.

"I don't believe that FOCA will pass, although we will continue to monitor all proposed regulations for their potential to help people in this country and for any negative assault on the life issues," she said.

As introduced in previous congresses, the legislation "has never contained anything that would force Catholic hospitals or Catholic personnel to do abortions or to participate in them," she added.

But even in a worst-case scenario, if the most dire predictions were to materialize and a federal law were to mandate that all hospitals provide abortion services, "I want to make it very clear that Catholic health care will not close and we will not compromise our principles," Sister Carol told Catholic News Service Jan. 26.

If necessary, Catholic hospitals will take a lesson from "how people have dealt with unjust laws" in American history, "and we would respond in the same way," she said.

Some of the confusion over FOCA might arise from the fact that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched a long-scheduled postcard campaign to Congress against the possible legislation just as the false Internet rumors were reaching a peak.

The postcards, which are being made available for Catholics to sign at Masses over several weekends in January and February, ask members of Congress to oppose FOCA "or any similar measure, and retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion."

(read the complete story)

*USCCB comments on the "FOCA Novena"

WASHINGTON (CNA).- Officials at the Pro-life Secretariat of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have issued statements seeking to correct “misleading” information provided in a widely-circulated announcement for a novena to stop FOCA.

The officials insisted that the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would not pass immediately after President-elect Obama takes office, but they reaffirmed that the possible coercion of pro-life medical institutions and changes to abortion funding restrictions are real concerns.

The novena announcement in question, which did not originate with the USCCB, asks Catholics to pray to stop FOCA, legislation designed to protect abortion rights even if the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is overturned. The novena was to start on January 11.

One variant of the novena announcement begins by warning “If you are opposed to abortion then there is bad news on the horizon.”

In a Friday email to those with questions about the novena, Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-life Activities, stated “this novena item is misleading in any number of ways.”

“Of course there is no possibility of FOCA being passed this month,” he stated. He also denied a rumor that, upon taking office, President-elect Obama could enact FOCA simply by executive order.

“We are fairly sure that our opponents will try for various less ambitious efforts before they try for FOCA, including possible attacks on some of the pro-life riders contained in appropriations bills that must be renewed by the first week of March,” Doerflinger explained, noting that the Prevention First Act which mandates contraception coverage is of concern to the Secretariat.

He said a postcard produced for pro-lifers by the Secretariat emphasizes that FOCA is one of many threats. The postcard urges Congress to oppose FOCA, “any similar measure, AND to retain current policies that prevent government funding and promotion of abortion.”

The novena announcement’s contention that women could be forced to undergo abortions, Doerflinger said, is “very strange.” He said such laws would “presumably” be unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade.

(read the complete story)


  1. This whole FOCA thing (novenas, postcards, etc.,) is ridiculous. It reminds me of Chicken Little's "the sky is falling." The "pro-life" people who are promoting these efforts would be better off trying to help the single mother in CA who now has 14 children under the age of 7. That would be something worthwhile. FOCA hysteria is not.

  2. In the January 30, 2009 issue of The Pilot there was a CNS article about the FOCA postcard campaign. The following is a quote from the article: "Many Catholics voted for Obama despite his position on abortion, and they have an obligation to say 'This is not why I voted for you,'" said Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "I describe this as their penance," he added in remarks at a Jan. 22 briefing with the Catholic press in Washington.

    Since when is Mr. Doerflinger in the business of handing out penances? His arrogance belies belief.


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