Catholics concerned about pro-life issues should not believe suggestions that President-elect Obama is interested in finding common ground with them, Russell Shaw has argued in a recent edition of Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly. In particular, Shaw warned that the legislative prospects of the radically pro-abortion Freedom of Choice Act should not be underestimated.
Shaw argued that President-elect Obama has not shown signs of engaging with Catholics and other pro-life advocates, especially through his choices of cabinet members and White House staffers. He noted that Obama has appointed pro-abortion rights Catholic Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services, while choosing as the director of his Domestic Policy Council a former member of Planned Parenthood’s board of directors, Melody Barnes.
Further, the head of White House communications will be Ellen Moran, a former executive director of the abortion advocacy group EMILY’s List.
“This, it must be said, is not the path to engagement,” Shaw remarked.
He also noted that the Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, recently reported he and Obama had met a number of times but never had a substantive conversation.
“Shouldn't the junior senator from Illinois, a state senator before that, sometime or other have sought out the archbishop of Chicago for a serious talk?” Shaw asked.
Shaw criticized those writers who denied that the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is a serious threat. FOCA, which would declare abortion to be a “fundamental right,” could provide a statutory basis for overturning state and federal restrictions on abortion, including bans on partial-birth abortion.
It could also endanger conscience protections for pro-life medical professionals and institutions.
The legislation has been lingering in Congress for two decades, leading some to dismiss its chances of passing.
Pro-life Obama supporter Doug Kmiec has charged that it is a “misleading tale” to consider FOCA a real threat, while Commonweal magazine has called it “abortion-rights propaganda…a fundraising device and a rallying cry for pro-choice groups.”
Shaw disagreed with Commonweal, saying “No doubt FOCA is all of that. And it's also a serious threat.”
He cited its numerous backers in the U.S. Congress as well as President-elect Obama’s campaign promise to sign FOCA as his first act as president.
Obama was a co-sponsor of FOCA, as was Sen. Hillary Clinton. However, Obama resigned his Senate seek to prepare for the presidency, while Sen. Clinton is expected to resign her seat to become Secretary of State under an Obama administration.
Their replacements have not yet been named.
The 2007 version of FOCA had 19 co-sponsors, including Sens. Obama and Clinton. Other prominent supporters included former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, former Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman, and California Sen. Diane Feinstein.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, at least 108 Congressmen co-sponsored the 2007 version of FOCA. Their number included Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who will become Obama’s White House chief of staff.
Shaw insisted FOCA should not be ignored, as defeating it would emphasize to Obama that advocating for abortion would be politically foolish and would betray the pro-life progressives who supported him.
“How do you prevent a dangerous bill from becoming law? The answer is, or should be, a no-brainer,” Shaw argued. “Dangerous bills are blocked by vigorously opposing them. Shrugging one's shoulders and saying they're no threat is a good way to get them passed.
“FOCA was stymied early in the Clinton administration by a major campaign mounted by pro-life groups, including the Catholic Church. To make sure it's stymied in the Obama administration will require another such effort,” Shaw argued.