Abortion activists first introduced the misnamed ‘Freedom of Choice Act’ (FOCA) with the help of Senate sympathizers in 1989 to create a fundamental right to abortion for all women, spread its access, and limit any government regulation, including any that even Roe v. Wade allowed. Twenty years and countless successes since then, the abortion movement put a sympathizer in the White House who had promised them he would sign that sweeping and radical legislation into law if elected.

Most Americans had not heard of this until sometime around election day 2008, others are still unaware that FOCA would change life in America dramatically, and eliminate vast numbers of them. The US Bishops mounted a formidable campaign to inform and engage citizens to defend against the assault on life and laws and fundamental rights of conscience. And they energetically implored President Barack Obama to resist the pressure to sign what they and the pro-life movement identified as “the most radical abortion legislation in US history,” without the slightest risk of exaggeration.

 

‘Congress has to explicitly exclude abortion, or it will be mandated’

FOCA would enshrine abortion as an absolute right and require unfettered access to it; invalidate all state and federal laws regulating abortion through term pregnancy, including informed consent, parental notification, physician licensing, clinic safety, and the rights of health care workers to exercise conscientious objection participating in abortion. And, it required U.S. taxpayers to fund it all.

Obama did not sign FOCA into law when he took office. But pro-life leaders weren’t exactly celebrating. They warned it would turn up in a stealthier form.

It has.

Abortion as health care

The plan was laid out clearly and early for the Obama administration when a coalition of 50 abortion-advocacy groups delivered a 55-page report to the president-elect during the transition phase detailing their wish-list for sweeping provisions. It was actually a breakdown of what was already contained in FOCA, mapped out with a navigation system that would direct it through various government departments and committees to overturn existing laws and mandate new ones. It would especially require abortion coverage in any national health-care plan produced by the Obama administration. That turned out to be the key.

When the Senate and House versions of health care reform proposals came to light last week, it was clear they were the vehicle to drive FOCA into law, though under radar. The word “abortion” is nowhere to be found in over 1,000 pages of dense bureaucratic legislation. But the health care bills being finalized in Congress have an abortion mandate, with taxpayer funding. If passed as written, health care “reform” in America would expand abortion more radically than anything since Roe. And the president and congressional leaders are doing all they can to rush it through as written, before the actual text of the bills can be vetted in congressional hearings or debated in members’ home districts.

This prompted an immediate and unprecedented mobilization of the pro-life movement to stop passage of this overhaul until it can be reviewed and revised with the input of American citizens. In 96 hours, leaders of nearly two dozen organizations rallied and staged the largest pro-life web event in history, a nighttime webcast that drew 36,187 into a brainstorming session and a call to action. Nineteen speakers covered the facts of the stealth politics behind the abortion mandate in the health care bills, and prompted response to them.

After the last election, the media wanted to write an obituary about the pro-life movement,” said Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life, “but on Capitol Hill they’re getting a lot of questions about FOCA, and this event is being taken very seriously. This battle over health care may seem new in some ways, but it’s the latest fight over FOCA, dressed up differently.”

The center of gravity in this whirlwind is a clause pro-life leaders say any bill must contain to resist the congressional enactment of the new stealth-FOCA. “Congress has to explicitly exclude abortion, or it will be mandated,” said National Right to Life Committee’s Douglas Johnson. Speaking for the Democrats for Life, Kristen Day reinforced that linchpin wording. “Democrats for Life have mounted a herculean effort to keep the abortion mandate out of this bill,” said Day. “Twenty House Democrats sent Speaker Pelosi a letter saying they wouldn’t vote for a bill that doesn’t exclude funding for abortion. There are at least 39 Democrats we know of who say the same.” She named two Democratic senators opposing abortion funding in their version of the bill.

“Some members of Congress are cobbling together a phony compromise with bogus legislative language,” warned Congressman Chris Smith, one of the most prominent pro-life activists in Congress. “Without abortion explicitly excluded from any government mandated or government funded benefits package, abortion will be included. This is the big one. Not since Roe v. Wade have women and children been so at risk.”

No freedom, no choice

The threat lies in the terminology, like the unqualified “essential benefits package” the health care bill promotes. Legal experts say that such a broad term can and will include abortion. Because public and private plans will be required to meet the minimum benefit mandate, the bill will eventually require Americans to pay into a plan that covers abortion, and help fund a vast expansion of abortion facilities to make it available.

The wording of the bill may be dense, but the intent is clear, says Johnson. It will nullify state abortion regulations on everything from informed consent to parental notification and waiting periods. The principle is “that once the feds have said this is a service you have a right to, no state could stand in the way of it.”

 

‘The abortion industry is using this as a last-ditch effort to save a dying business’

Not even physicians and health care workers who morally object. “Choice cuts both ways,” said Fr. Frank Pavone, Director of Priests for Life. “But if abortion is an essential health benefit, funded as never before, it will take away the health providers’ choice. The state may prefer childbirth over abortion and choose not to pay for it, a right which has been upheld by the courts. Medical providers may choose not to provide abortion. All this would be taken away by this legislation. The abortion industry is using this as a last-ditch effort to save a dying business, since more and more abortion mills have closed down and fewer medical professionals are providing them. There is no disease that abortion cures, no proven medical benefit to the procedure, and they know that.”

And yet, during his campaign, Obama described “reproductive care” including abortion as the “heart” of his health plan at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund event. He also signaled that he expected all insurers be forced to cover abortion. One of the very few pro-life representatives to meet with Obama staffers, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, spoke on the pro-life summit webcast. “Someone on the White House staff said it’s not their goal to reduce the number of abortions,” she stated.

And yet that’s what Obama reportedly told Pope Benedict is his goal in their private meeting at the Vatican. “Obama saying he wants to reduce abortion is just not credible,” said Congressman Smith. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, host of Hardball and known Obama admirer, said something similar: “By the way, the night he tells the Pope, he goes over to see the Pope and says they’re going to reduce the number of abortions, and then that same week he pushes to subsidize abortion? You can’t do that!”

Right now, his administration is on track to do just that, reversing federal law prohibiting taxpayer funded abortion. Obama started on that track in January by reversing the Mexico City Policy, freeing up funds for overseas abortions. But since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has prevented Medicaid or Medicare funding for abortions in most cases, and Obama’s health reform plan will repeal that law, “opening up the spigots” for abortion coverage, in one pro-life participant’s words.
If that happened, abortions would likely increase by 20-35 percent by most estimates. Congressman Smith cites that figure from Planned Parenthood’s own research wing, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, which reported that public funding restrictions lowered abortion rates by that much, especially in poor areas.

Tremors in the House

The night of the critical pro-life summit webcast, leaders were enthusiastic that Congressman Mike Pence’s amendment to strip Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer funding had passed the House Rules committee that day (they called it “an act of God”, under the circumstances and climate in Congress right now). The Health and Human Services “family planning” (Title X) fund is a major source of funding for the nation’s largest abortion provider. Pence wanted Title X funding to exclude services that perform abortions, and passage by the Rules committee was unexpected. The following day, it was rejected in a larger House vote, 183-247.

“Representative Mike Pence offered an amendment to respect the will of the majority of pro-life Americans, the citizens who do not want their hard-earned tax dollars supporting abortion providers,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List. The latest Gallup Poll revealed that 51 percent of Americans identify themselves as pro-life. And 71 percent don’t want their tax dollars to pay for abortion. Pro-life leaders launched the ‘Stop the Mandate’ campaign to do just that, eliminate mandated taxpayer-funded abortion from health care reform.

They know they’re in a rush, to keep up with the push in Congress. The morning after this historic webcast, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel promised a House vote on the bill before the August recess. And pro-life leaders promised to “use every available tool to educate pro-life Americans across the country” about the House vote on Pence’s amendment, name by name, so they’ll “know whether or not their representative voted on the side of the pro-life taxpayer.” But Douglas Johnson assured webcast participants it’s not a done deal. “Many members of Congress are undecided on this,” he said. “They need to hear from the electorate, to take the pulse of the people.”

It’s either racing right now, or it will be.

Sheila Gribben Liaugminas is an Emmy Award winning journalist who
reported for Time magazine for more than 20 years. She blogs at
InforumBlog.com and on MercatorNet 

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....