Freedom Of Choice Act Stirs Controversy

As the countdown continues until President-Elect Barack Obama officially takes office on January 20th, millions of Americans are waiting for the change that Obama has been promising. But there is one change that opponents of abortion are not so ready to embrace.

During a speech addressed to Planned Parenthood on July 17, 2007, Obama proclaimed that one of his first actions during his first hundred days in office would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law (FOCA). This piece of legislation, designed to protect the woman’s right to privacy, would effectively negate nearly every state and federal restriction on abortion put into place over the last thirty-six years.

Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America describes the bill as one that would “codify Roe v. Wade” and would “repeal the Bush-backed federal abortion ban,” referring to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act enacted by the Bush administration in 2003. Along with the ban on partial-birth abortions, FOCA would invalidate many laws concerning parental notification, waiting periods, and the physician’s mandate of full disclosure to the patient of the physical and emotional risks associated with abortion procedures.

Though the Freedom of Choice Act is not a new piece of legislation-it was first introduced in 1993-controversy flared recently when the Rev. Jay Scott Newman, a Catholic priest, made national news when he advised his parishioners to refrain from receiving Communion if they voted for Obama, on the grounds that this would be a vote for abortion and “constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil.” Msgr. Laughlin, the administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, has since repudiated Rev. Newman for this proclamation, though there is still concern among the Catholic population as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Baltimore, Maryland. Currently, there are state laws that protect Catholic-owned hospitals from having to provide abortion services due to moral objections. In response to concerns that FOCA would overthrow these protections, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago stated, “It could mean discontinuing obstetrics in our hospitals, and we may need to consider taking the drastic step of closing our Catholic hospitals entirely.”

The debate between the Right to Life and the Right to Choose is still going strong, and although President-Elect Obama has stated that he hopes to reduce the necessity for abortion procedures by making reproductive health resources more readily available to all women, it is unlikely that this conflict will find any easy resolution.

The text of the Freedom of Choice Act can be found at