Where Religion Meets Politics Meets Health Care
President-elect Obama has stated publicly that he’ll sign the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA) the minute it lands on his desk. I’d say that’s a pretty strong statement of support. Catholic Bishops have, just last week, stated that FOCA forces Catholic hospitals (and hence Catholic health-care providers) to perform abortions, which is profoundly against their religious tenets. They’ll shut down Catholic hospitals before they let this happen. Every single one of them. That would be about a third of all the hospitals in the country closing their doors.
Why would they carry out such a threat? It’s because the list of changes in current abortion-related law that FOCA would produce is long and odious. From The Corner Milinda Henneberger writes:
Though it’s often referred to as a mere codification of Roe, FOCA, as currently drafted, actually goes well beyond that: According to the Senate sponsor of the bill, Barbara Boxer, in a statement on her Web site, FOCA would nullify all existing laws and regulations that limit abortion in any way, up to the time of fetal viability. Laws requiring parental notification and informed consent would be tossed out. While there is strenuous debate among legal experts on the matter, many believe the act would invalidate the freedom-of-conscience laws on the books in 46 states. These are the laws that allow Catholic hospitals and health providers that receive public funds through Medicaid and Medicare to opt out of performing abortions. Without public funds, these health centers couldn’t stay open; if forced to do abortions, they would sooner close their doors. Even the prospect of selling the institutions to other providers wouldn’t be an option, the bishops have said, because that would constitute “material cooperation with an intrinsic evil.”
So no, this is not a bluff.
Perhaps with Republicans retaining the capability of a filabuster in the Senate (thanks to the all-but-final count in Minnesota), the politics will allow both sides to step away from this abyss. Maybe. P-E Obama seems to be encouraging the confrontation, however. From Ed Morrissey at HotAir:
Obama pledged to make FOCA his highest priority, though, and his appointment of Emily’s List spokesperson Ellen Moran as his communications director sent a message that he intends to pursue it. Henneberger believes that any attempt to force FOCA through Congress will “reignite the culture war he so deftly sidestepped throughout this campaign,” as well as make fools out of pro-Obama Catholics like Douglas Kmiec. I don’t see Obama backing away from his pledge to make Planned Parenthood’s dreams come true, and I hope that Henneberger’s correct about Congress stopping those plans.
So far, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has declined to comment on FOCA’s chances of making it to the House floor this term.