Congressman to introduce FOCA ‘sooner rather than later,’ spokesman says

Rep. Jerrold Nadler / Sen. Barbara Boxer
Rep. Jerrold Nadler / Sen. Barbara Boxer

.- A spokesman for Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has said that the Freedom of Choice Act is among the congressman’s priorities and will be introduced “sooner rather than later,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is intended to enshrine abortion rights into federal law, protecting abortion in the event the Supreme Court overturns its ban on restrictive state abortion laws. The proposal has drawn intense Catholic opposition, with Catholic bishops worried the bill could threaten Catholic hospitals’ freedom to refuse to cooperate with or perform abortions.

A prior version of FOCA defined abortion as a “fundamental right” that no government can “deny” or “interfere with.”

Critics have claimed that concern about FOCA is overblown, noting the bill has not even been introduced for the present Congressional session. They declare FOCA’s chances of passing Congress to be slim.

However, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Ilan Kayatsky, a spokesman for Rep. Nadler, who said the legislation is “among the congressman's priorities. We expect to reintroduce it sooner rather than later.”

Kayatsky said he expects FOCA’s other original sponsor, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), to introduce the bill in the U.S. Senate.

“We expect it to be more or less the same bill with some minor tweaks," Kayatsky told the Post-Dispatch.

As U.S. Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama was a co-sponsor of FOCA. In 2007 during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, he had promised a gathering of members of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund that he would sign FOCA as one of his first acts in office.

Bishop of St. Petersburg, Florida Robert Lynch said that “even in the worst case scenario” in which FOCA required abortions to be performed at Catholic hospitals, the hospitals would not close.

“We will not comply, but we will not close,” he said, advocating a strategy of civil disobedience.

Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, told the Post Dispatch that she did not believe the language in the most recent version of FOCA would force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. She also believed civil disobedience would be the Church’s response to such coercion.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had launched a postcard to protest FOCA. It recently added an e-mail campaign to the effort, inviting citizens to tell their Senators and Representative to oppose FOCA “or any similar measure.”

“It is especially important that Congress retain these laws in the various appropriations bills, e.g., the Hyde Amendment in the Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill,” the e-mails also say.

Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy and Communications at the USCCB's Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, urged participation in the campaign.

"To guard against the erosion of current pro-life measures—and to keep abortion from becoming a federal entitlement—our voice is needed now more than ever," she said.

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