On a cool and rainy afternoon last week, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde visited Virginia’s Democratic Sens. James Webb and Mark Warner to demonstrate Catholic opposition to the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) and any similar legislation. The bishop was accompanied by Father Richard Mullins, Arlington diocesan director of Multicultural Ministries, and Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist Sister Clare Hunter, director of the Respect Life Office.
They brought 189,000 postcards that were the result of participation in a nationwide campaign by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to prevent the passage of FOCA. The local effort was coordinated by the diocesan Respect Life Office. The two senators received approximately 63,000 cards each while U.S. Reps. Gerald Connolly, Jim Moran, Frank Wolf, Bob Goodlatte, Eric Cantor and Rob Wittman will split the remaining 63,000.
The bishops state that FOCA goes far beyond even Roe v. Wade in allowing and promoting abortion, and would lead to the elimination of informed consent laws, partial birth-abortion bans, abortion clinic regulations and conscience protection laws.
Catholics in Northern Virginia agreed and came out strong in January picking up cards after Sunday Mass and filling them out for delivery to their representatives.
Bishop Loverde met with Webb in his office at the Russell Senate Building. The bishop told Webb that he represents 413,000 registered Catholics residing in Northern Virginia, and that they are concerned about FOCA and other similar legislation.
Bishop Loverde said FOCA would eliminate any legislation against late-term abortions and parental notification laws. The bishop also stated that Catholics are committed not only to a decrease in abortions, but to bringing an end to the killing of innocent human life.
“(FOCA) creates a fundamental right to abortion,” the bishop said.
He also voiced concerns over the possible revocation of the conscience rights regulation by President Barack Obama’s administration that protects Catholic medical workers who refuse to perform abortions.
“This is a basic right,” the bishop said, describing conscience clauses as they relate to medical procedures.
He cited as an example the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, which is the only full-service Catholic health care center in Northern Virginia.
The bishop said this service is important to women and revocation of any conscience protection clauses would have a detrimental affect on clinics like Tepeyac. They would be forced to close.
“Tepeyac reaches out to poor women,” the bishop said about the large number of Medicaid cases handled by the center.
Webb said, “I’ve struggled with this issue (abortion) all my life.”
He said he couldn’t argue with many of the bishop’s points.
“I strongly oppose late-term abortions,” Webb said.
He did say that if his daughter was raped and became pregnant as a result, he would support her decision regarding having the baby.
“These are extreme situations,” he said. “Every abortion is a tragedy.”
Bishop Loverde pointed out that the overwhelming number of abortions are not connected with rape or incest.
Warner was on the Senate floor for a vote so the bishop met with Jonathon Davidson, the senator’s administrative assistant and policy director.
The bishop reiterated opposition to FOCA and related legislation. Davidson said that although these are important issues, the senator and staff are “focused on getting the economy fixed.”
When Bishop Loverde expressed Catholics’ opposition to revocation of conscience clauses, Davidson said he needed to become more familiar with the issue and that Warner would like the bishop to return for a personal visit with him.
Davidson did express gratitude to the bishop for the visit and its importance.
“It’s good to have input (into the issues) early on,” he said.
Bishop Loverde was generally pleased with the visits and saw them as a first step to more dialogue.
“These visits make absolutely clear our grave concerns about these issues and our firm and committed determination to protect life from conception to natural death. I welcome future opportunities to make our position clear and, in fact, will seek them out,” he said.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.