Tag Archives: FOCA

The pro-life movement’s 9/11

The Obama administration’s pro-abortion efforts are bringing pro-lifers together like never before

Marjorie Dannenfelser calls the election of President Barack Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress “the 9/11 of the pro-life movement.”

After eight years of progress, pro-life advocates are facing the possibility of seeing all restrictions on taxpayer-funded abortion overturned, said Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she added.

Real threats

The transfer of power in Washington was a defining moment for a prolife movement which had grown comfortable with George W. Bush in the White House. But if there’s any emerging good news, the new threats seem to have galvanized the pro-life movement.

Legate Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life, said that new energy was evident in the record turnout at the Jan. 22 March for Life in Washington, which drew more than 300,000 people, according to the march’s website.

“If anything, this has gotten more people out of the stands and onto the playing field,” Morana said.

Dannenfelser concurs. Besides energizing grassroots involvement, she said, the power shift in Washington has caused pro-lifers to respond to each other with a “generosity of spirit” reminiscent of how Americans reacted after the nation was rocked by terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I’ve been doing this a very long time, but at no time have I seen the degree of charity and cooperation that has really come through,” Dannenfelser said. “There is a common goal and common cause. We really don’t have time to argue. We just have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Fighting FOCA

That work has already begun with a concerted effort to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which the president, as candidate Obama, promised to make his first order of business.

However, pro-life leaders say that FOCA, which would undo almost every restriction on abortion in the country, is not necessarily the greatest threat at the moment.

Morana said pro-abortion groups are trying to achieve their ends in other ways, such as attempting to get funding for abortifacient contraception into other legislation.

Dannenfelser’s group is now focusing on what it calls the “abortion bail-out package,” a wish list submitted by abortion groups to the Obama transition team including:

• $1 billion in taxpayer funding for international abortion groups;

• $65 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which has been tied to forced abortions in China;

• repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which would expand federal funding for abortions;

• expansion of taxpayer-funded abortions on military bases, in the Peace Corps and for federal prisoners;

• inclusion of abortion coverage in taxpayer-subsidized national health care.

“There’s not one big bill that has it all in there,” Dannenfelser said. Pro-abortion activists are “too smart for that. All the pieces of funding come from different places, different appropriations bills. The real fight is going to be these upcoming funding bills.”

Congressional pressure

The most effective thing pro-lifers can do now, she said, is to let Congress know they oppose using taxpayers’ money on abortion. The Susan B. Anthony List has generated about 40,000 letters to the Senate supporting the retention of abortion-funding restrictions. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ postcard initiative and the Red Envelope campaign have also met with similar success.

Pro-lifers have also pointed out the glaring inconsistency between Obama’s promise to pro-abortion groups and his pledge to reduce the number of abortions.

“If you want more of something, you subsidize it. If you want less of something, you tax it,” said Princeton law professor Robert George, a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

“Tell me how you can fund abortion, massively subsidize it and expect a decrease in the abortion rate,” he said. “To accomplish that you would need someone who is more than a messiah. You would need a magician.”

George said everything the Obama administration is proposing would in effect expand the availability of abortion.

Obama issued an executive order on March 9 revoking limitations on the use of federal money in embryo-destructive research that Bush established in 2001, restricting funding to cell lines that already existed.

“I suspect the next major step on the funding front will be the repeal of the Hyde Amendment,” George said. “The pro-abortion lobby itself says that the Hyde Amendment prevents 300,000 abortions a year. So this is a very big issue, and I think they know this is the best chance of getting rid of the Hyde Amendment they’ve ever had.”

Obama has already begun to lift restrictions that allow health care workers to refuse to participate in abortions, including dispensing the morning-after pill. The administration is targeting Bush-era regulations that went into effect on Jan. 20.

George predicts the next effort will involve pressuring states to fund abortion, followed by attempts to remove parental-consent laws for minor girls and informed-consent laws for women considering abortions.

The best solution, George said, may be to identify a handful of districts around the country where there is sufficient support to elect pro-life legislators. “Win four to five of those and it would radically transform the landscape. You’ll find a lot of politicians who are on the fence suddenly confirmed in their pro-life convictions.”

In March, the Susan B. Anthony List launched a campaign to do just that. Former congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) will lead the Votes Have Consequences initiative, a grassroots mobilization and voter education effort in targeted congressional districts and key states nationwide.

“If we learned anything in 2008,” said Jane Abraham, SBAL’s general chairman, “it’s that we need to work early and often to raise the salience of the life issue in public discourse and among voters.”

Judy Roberts is a staff writer for Legatus Magazine.










The 111th Congress and Catholic conscience

In 2001, many Catholics celebrated a new day in Washington. Michael Novak noted at the time, “Better laws are coming. Public consciences are thawing.” After a hard-fought election campaign and results contested (and ultimately resolved) by the Supreme Court, Catholics welcomed the inauguration of President George W. Bush with high hopes.

Eight years later, the Catholic vote has swung to the Democratic Party, with a small but significant majority of Catholics supporting the recently-inaugurated Barack Obama. For a host of reasons — from concerns about the economy, opposition to the Iraq War or simply an eagerness for change — a sizable number of Catholics abandoned the GOP and embraced a candidate some have called “the most pro-abortion president in history.”

Catholics appalled by the injustice of abortion are rightfully concerned. More than likely, the gravest threat pressing the conscience is the Obama campaign statement before a Planned Parenthood audience in which he pledged: “One of the first things I would do is sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” otherwise known as FOCA.

The ominous legislation would do more than enshrine Roe v. Wade in federal law. FOCA would eliminate laws such as parental consent requirements, required ultrasound testing and bans on partial birth abortion. The proposed law is so far reaching that Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki warned that the measure would have “devastating consequences” and could force the closure of all Catholic hospitals.

As menacing as FOCA might appear, the evidence suggests that the deepening recession and other pressing issues will likely prevent serious consideration of the legislation this year. Obama’s political instincts are sharp; he is unlikely to expend the political capital necessary to press FOCA so early in his presidency. Given these circumstances, it might be said that our greatest danger is setting expectations so low that the absence of FOCA becomes our only measure of success.

Instead, abortion advocates are already pressing for a series of incremental changes designed to re-orient every significant federal agency in favor of pro-abortion policies. A report signed by 55 abortion leaders in December recommended a series of sweeping changes in the Obama administration’s first 100 days, including $1 billion in international funding for abortion providers and $700 million domestically.

The report also gives a detailed outline of vacancies in the federal district courts and a list of appointments to various executive agencies, which are expected to be staffed with allies where — according to columnist Deal Hudson — “the billions being demanded for abortion funding will eventually flow unimpeded.”

Certainly one of the biggest pro-life battles to come in the 111th Congress will be the fight over taxpayerfunded abortions. Despite the fact that Americans have channeled hundreds of millions of dollars annually to organizations for services related to abortion, the U.S. taxpayer has not directly funded abortion (except in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother) since 1976.

The pertinent provision, called the Hyde Amendment, was held intact all eight years of the Clinton Administration and prevents Medicaid funds from being used directly for abortion. The abortion lobby is salivating over the prospect of removing this restriction, which would result in federally subsidized abortion for low-income women, the demographic where most abortions occur. The Hyde Amendment must be approved each year and is likely to spark an intense fight in Congress. Similar measures to the Hyde Amendment include limits on tax dollars for abortion for members of the military, Peace Corps, Indian healthcare services and federal prisoners. Abortion advocates have these provisions in their sights; some have already been lifted.

The debate over taxpayers and abortion will grow more intense as economic conditions remain difficult. With many Americans losing their jobs and homes — and trillions being expended on bailout programs — the nearly $3 billion in new funding proposed for the abortion industry should not pass without vigorous public debate.

Perhaps of deeper concern, however, is the question asked by papal biographer George Weigel in a Newsweek column last November: “Does the payment of federal taxes that go to support abortion constitute a form of moral complicity in an ‘intrinsic evil’? And if so, what should the conscientious Catholic citizen do?”

These questions loom large as the newly aligned power structures in Washington begin to enact a panoply of changes likely to make demands on the pocketbooks of American Catholics — and also their consciences.

Elections indeed have consequences. Yet if recent history is any guide, political winds can change unexpectedly, and what typically begins in high hopes ultimately must face the realities of American politics. America remains a broadly diverse country where prolife sentiments, however fashioned, run deep. Not every Democrat is a pro-abortion extremist, and not every campaign promise becomes law.

What to do? We must take up the challenge as Catholics throughout history have taken up challenges of such import — renewed prayer, fasting and spirited engagement. Thankfully, in American politics there is always hope. And change.

Brian Burch is the president of Fidelis, a national Catholicbased advocacy group which received national attention for its online election video at CatholicVote.com.