The FOCA Phantom: What will pro-lifers do without it?

The focus of much of the Catholic right’s doomsday prophesying about Barack Obama, a.k.a. the anti-Christ (see Stafford, Cardinal Francis, et al) has been about the inevitability of Obama signing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would enshrine Roe into federal law and make abortion-on-demand part of a mandated kindergarten curriculum and push the Catholic Church back into the catacombs and lead to violence against bishops, who have said they will happily be martyrs for this cause, and gosh, all sorts of things unheard of since the days before Constantine. (George Weigel had the latest from Babylon here.)
Lost in all this prophesying is any recognition that the people who would need to pass FOCA think it’s a bad idea and that it’d never pass, much less get to President Obama’s desk. NCR’s new publisher, Joe Feuerhard, has a solid take on the politics involved here, including the apt observation that Obama’s 2007 pledge to Planned Parenthood to sign FOCA was political “pandering.” Joe’s bottom line: “FOCA has as much chance of passage as the 0-10 Detroit Lions have of winning the next Super Bowl.” (Ouch. Even from my perach as a Giants fan, that hurts.)
So why the focus on FOCA by Catholic conservatives? I’d say a couple of things: One, the election was a resounding defeat for their camp, and exposed division in the church and within the pro-life movement. While they retrench, they need to keep the focus on an enemy, and FOCA serves that purpose. The pro-life movement has largely been an opposition movement, and that dynamic is hard to change, and it could hurt fundraising at a bad time for all fundraisers. Two, the conservatives can also claim “credit” for defeating FOCA when it does not become law.
The problem of course is that this straw men and red herrings divert us all from the hard work to be done on this issue, both within the church and in the public square. Opposition to FOCA should be part of that, to keep the pressure on and pols honest. But using a phantom FOCA as a single-issue means of demonizing one’s political opponents does no good to one’s cause, or the wider society.

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Steven Ertelt

posted November 25, 2008 at 11:36 am

“But using a phantom FOCA as a single-issue means of demonizing one’s political opponents does no good to one’s cause, or the wider society.”
C’mon, there is no demonization. Obama told Planned Parenthood in July 2007 ( he would make FOCA the first bill he signs as president.
So Obama has already put it on the table that he is for the bill and we know Planned Parenthood and NARAL will push it.
And FOCA means making a national law that legalizes abortions throughout pregnancy for any reason — hardly something most Americans support. And it would overturn hundreds of laws that reduce abortions (contradicting Obama’s claims to want to reduce abortions).

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posted November 25, 2008 at 11:56 am

David, First, please restrain from using the “Lord’s name in vain.” If you look up the word “gosh” you will find, according to Merriam-Webster that it is an Etymology: euphemism for God. The Lord’s name should only be used in praise, worship, prayer, or for the glory and honor of God.
The answer to your points is probably that the sanctity of life is of the utmost concern. If you devalue life, all the ills will follow. This is notable in history where life has been dehumanized and reserved for a group or few. Note the recent history of Hitler and others. One would think that all pressure would be put on to stop promised devaluing of life events. The Judeo-Christian community among others needs to keep this in the forefront, or we will deteriorate into an immoral nation. And, the pro-life movement would love the situation where there were no events that they would have to fight. However, there always needs to be a look-out in any case. All should be happy there is such a pro-life movement because it benefits all citizens and the nation where we are not viewed as a nation that fosters a culture of death, but errs of the side of life.

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posted November 25, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Gosh! If a woman doesn’t want to have an abortion, she doesn’t have to have one. IF the bill passes, FOCA would merely make the continuation of a safe, legal and clean abortion possible. No one will force any woman to do so. This isn’t China. The RCC’s predictions are just scare tactics.

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posted November 25, 2008 at 4:17 pm

am a cradle catholic. Stopped going to church when I was a teenager and could say I’m not going anymore. I grew up in the south and the church was segregated. This was a big issue to me as an older child and teenager. One of our parish priests was an bad alcoholic and caused scandal. Over the years, I’ve become a Buddhist, a Bahai, and a Lutheran. But now, I am drawn back to the church. It’s about the Mass, the intellectual heritage, monasticism and the ritual. I could not find that satisfaction elsewhere. I disagree with the church hierarchy on some isssues, I don’t really follow the bishops pronouncements. I live my faith from the heart and the mind. As one philosophical entertainer (Alan Watts, and british born Episopal priest from the 60’s)said. America fought a revolution to become an independent, democratic nation. And yet we supposedly long to die and go to heaven, where we will be back in a monarchy. So, I’m a cafeteria catholic, but the church is more than the Pope and bishops. It’s all of us. And if you look at the example of history (recently gay, pedophile, etc.) plus the inquisition etc. There is no compelling need to follow every pronouncement from the Vatican or bishops, duh, they are sometimes wrong. We are all just people trying to figure out our way in life. Even the Pope. The church is all of us. I love the Catholic church and hope that all faiths can learn to at least respect one another. By the way, I think abortion and capital punishment are wrong (sanctity of life, possibility of redemption), but we live in a secular society with a separation of church and state, as it should be. Abortion is only one of the evils in our society (human trafficing, genocide, extreme materialism that has brought our great nation to the point of collapse. We should do what we can, but only God can intervene and really change things. This is a fallen world and we do not have the capacity to save it ourselves.

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Your Name

posted November 25, 2008 at 6:44 pm

So this is where all the tepid catholics hang out to embellish each others reason to throw crap in Our Lords wounds. Sounds like most of your wounds are spilled out on this accessable internet couch for free. If you truly want council, I doubt you’ll find it, until you start looking – in all the Right places. This ain’t it! But you won’t will you now!!!!!!!!
This ain’t my island!

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Your Name

posted November 25, 2008 at 9:12 pm

Don’t need counsel, but your post is the usual, I know the truth, my way is the only one. Just go back and read what Jesus said and did, and Paul. The way we live today is not right. Too many people that consider themselves Christian are so hateful toward other Christians because of their specific beliefs, faith, dogma. This is not what Christ taught. He wasn’t even a Christian. He was a Jew.
No one knows in a scientific, factual sense that what they believe or hope for is actually true. They believe its true, they hope it’s true, but no one knows for sure. God bless you.

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posted November 25, 2008 at 9:51 pm

any recognition that the people who would need to pass FOCA think it’s a bad idea and that it’d never pass
I realized this just before Election Day but I’m still so glad you posted this.

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posted November 26, 2008 at 4:08 pm

So the rally around FOCA was never about protecting innocent life? It was just about electing Republican candidates by trying to co-opt Catholic voters?
That is what truly dishonors the wounds of Christ.

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posted November 29, 2008 at 8:23 pm

Question: I am a reluctant “pro-choice” person. What really “gets” me about the “pro-life” position is it seems so limited!! If all life is of value, shouldn’t that extend with equal passion to the continuing of life in certain ways, like social justice, treating the poor with both compassion and dignity, respecting our seniors?? I think a lot of conservatives would probably agree with that question–until “the rubber meets the road”, i.e. a “living wage” as opposed to a “minimum wage”, “health care access–without exorbitant fees/charges, quality lawyers for the poor who don’t have access to a good lawyer i.e. the Public Defenders’ offices and funding for such, etc.
It seems like–and I know I’m probably wrong on this but, so help me, this is the image I get: all most conversatives can think about are “pro-life” (no abortion under any circumstance) and low taxes, never mind taxes are needed to pay for roads, hospitals, schools, and maintenance of our infrastructure (something that has been ignored.) Please correct me if I’m wrong in assuming those things are also “pro life” and deserve attention as well.

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Your Name

posted December 1, 2008 at 6:00 pm

So Obama is ignorant about the political process or environment? Or he simply exaggerates his intentions to defend the “right” to kill unborn children?
Ought to be another entertaining 4 years of a President who is either dumb or a liar.

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posted December 2, 2008 at 1:25 am

Why do you have so much vitriol against people you supposedly have sympathies with.(I assume you are pro-life) Is hatred of conservatives really worth more than 1.5 Million surgical abortions a yr and countless of chemical abortions from IUDs, Birth Control Pills, Depo-Provera, Norplant.
Maybe the politicians are willing to go in front of a camera and promise that the FIRST thing they want to do as president is pass a law that would overturn partial birth abortion, funding for pregnancy centers, parental notification….demonize themselves.

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posted December 8, 2008 at 12:45 am

“If all life is of value, shouldn’t that extend with equal passion to the continuing of life in certain ways, like social justice, treating the poor with both compassion and dignity, respecting our seniors??”
The whole respect life issue begins with the protection of life. Other social justice issues naturally follow. Try praying outside an abortion clinic one morning at 7am. When the distraught young women drive up to Planned Parenthood you will see for yourself the tragedy unfold. It is not about ignoring other social issues. More than 75% of the women I have seen are not financially strapped. They have new cars and are getting rid of their babies because they have been taught that it is OK to consider another human life an “inconvinience” and OK to take it out like last week’s trash. They are troubled by this because natual law (as well as God’s law) says that a mother killing her child is unnatural and wrong.

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For Sue

posted January 18, 2009 at 9:15 pm

You are absolutely right- life issues do necessarily include living wages, access to healthcare, and many other social justice issues including capital punishment and war. This is why it is so difficult for Catholics to make voting decisions. Candidates who support the Catholic teachings fall on both sides of the aisle, and almost always fall short.

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Your Name

posted January 20, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Sue (the first commentator) said: If all life is of value, shouldn’t that extend with equal passion to the continuing of life in certain ways, like social justice, treating the poor with both compassion and dignity, respecting our seniors?”
Response: Sue, ask yourself this question: what do you need FIRST in order to CONTINUE life (as you say) and to RECIEVE both compassion and dignity? What do you need first, in order to even reach the status of a senior?
I hope you answer, if you thought about it, was: one needs to be alive in order to continue life, recieve compassion and dignity, and become a hallowed senior.
Pro-life people are more passionate about this issue because it is of greater import than the others you mentioned, because it is a bare difference between HAVING a life or having it taken away. The other issues are a differences between the QUALITY of a life. The one precedes the other in order of being and therefore holds the primacy of a fundamental difference.
Another comment is this: You do not ask those people who passionately fight out against other issues to EXPAND their fight to include ALL injustice of every nature. Its unreasonable to ask for this – a more concentrated fight wins the battle. Only idealistic people would attempt to fight all battles all at once and if they did, they would always lose. Its a matter of logistics. You should instead be rejoicing that there are many different groups fighting many different battles against many different injustices – at least some, we hope, will win.

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