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November 12, 2008
Column #1,420
Catholic Bishops Battle Obama on Abortion
by Mike McManus

BALTIMORE - While Catholic bishops welcome working with the Obama Administration on immigration and health care reform - they stoutly oppose Obama's championing of a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) they said would be "more radical than the 1973 Supreme Court decision," Roe v. Wade,  legalizing abortion.

"FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars," said Chicago Cardinal Francis George in a statement issued on behalf of all Catholic bishops at their meeting this week in Baltimore.

"Parental notification and informed consent precautions would be outlawed, as would be laws banning procedures such as partial-birth abortion and protecting infants born alive after a failed abortion. The Hyde Amendment restricting the federal funding of abortions would be abrogated. FOCA would have lethal consequences for prenatal human life."

The Supreme Court has held that states have a right to pass laws limiting abortion, such as parental notification laws now in 32 states, requiring parents be informed if their underaged daughter is seeking an abortion. When girls know they'd have to tell their parents if they get pregnant and want an abortion, fewer have sex.  Result:teen abortions fell from 461,000 in 1979 to 250,000 by 1999. 

The Supreme Court has also ruled that the federal Partial Birth Abortion Act was not only legal, but the court held that government has "a legitimate interest in protecting fetal life," as long as there is no "substantial obstacle to the woman's right to choose."

However, if Congress were to pass FOCA, those abortion limitations would be brushed aside. Why? Up till now, Congress has not passed a law legalizing abortion. Indeed, FOCA establishes a federal "abortion right" through all nine months of pregnancy, including a full-developed child in the last weeks of pregnancy.  The National Organization for Women says FOCA would "sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws (and) policies."

Obama told Planned Parenthood last July, "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing I'd do."

That's what has alarmed Catholic bishops. "Any one of us here would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow - die tomorrow - to bring about the end of abortion," declared Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis. Therefore, he said bishops "should be willing to, until the end of our lives, to take all kinds of criticism for opposing this horrible infanticide."

Auxiliary Chicago Bishop Thomas Paprocki asserted "The next step would be for federal law to require abortions by all hospitals, which we cannot do. We'd need to consider taking the drastic step of closing our Catholic hospitals completely. I don't think I'm being alarmist."

Cardinal George, President of the Catholic Bishops, said FOCA "would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children."

My son, Tim McManus, CEO of a hospital in Gulfport, MS, Garden Park Medical Center, says that "Very few hospitals do elective abortions. Many Ob-Gyn doctors refuse to do them.  Hospitals are able to manage what services they want to offer. The Federal Government can't require us to offer an elective surgery, such as abortion, while we are required to offer emergency services."

FOCA could change those rules. 

What angers Douglas Johnson of National Right to Life is that Obama presented himself during the fall as someone committed to reducing the number of abortions.  However, what has reduced the number of abortions from 1.6 million to 1.2 million - are the very changes in state laws that would be wiped out by FOCA. Abortions would only increase if he signs the law.

For example, if the Hyde Amendment that has blocked federal funding of abortions is repealed by FOCA, there will be more abortions. Indeed, one study estimates that there are one million Americans alive today because of the 1976 Hyde Amendment.

Catholic bishops believe the election was decided by the deteriorating economy, not due to Obama's position on abortion.  Cardinal George warned that if Obama misinterprets the election "as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by the President-elect will be impossible to achieve.

"Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good...Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of religion."

Some 54 percent of Catholics voted for Obama, despite their bishops.  However, tens of millions of evangelicals agree with the bishops.

Obama has been warned.

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