Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Freedom of Choice Act

I don't usually venture into the treacherous waters of highly-controversial topics, but I'm going to tonight.

A dear friend of mine sent me an email this evening about the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which President-Elect Obama promised early in his campaign to make one of his first priorities as President (if Congress first passes it). While I support some of what President-Elect Obama is trying to do, I do not support his position on abortion, and the FOCA especially worries me. Here's why, according to (comment in brackets mine):

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would eliminate every restriction on abortion nationwide.

  • FOCA will do away with state laws on parental involvement, on partial birth abortion, and on all other protections [such as the requirement to fully disclose all the risks associated with having an abortion].
  • FOCA will compel taxpayer funding of abortions.
  • FOCA will force faith-based hospitals and healthcare facilities to perform abortions.
Did you catch that? The FOCA would eliminate every restriction on abortion nationwide. The second point, that FOCA will compel taxpayer funding of abortions, is debatable (see this Wikipedia article). The rest, however, really concerns me morally and politically (getting rid of existing state legislation infringes on states' rights to self-govern).

The FightFOCA site has a petition that will be sent to members of Congress. They currently have around 350,000 signatures. If you're also concerned about this, take a look at the site, do some research there and elsewhere, and sign the petition.


Alayna said...

I went to the website and signed the petition. Thanks for posting this, Lynnae!

Cory said...

Alayna sent me a link to this. Thanks for posting it.

Molly said...

You really needn't worry. FOCA will never get passed, even with the Democratic majorities we now have, though I will take the opposing tack and say that I wish it would.

Roe v. Wade is law. Abortion is legal in the United States. Since it was handed down states have been chipping away at it, trying to erode all meaning it carries. Waiting periods, mandatory counseling, and the scare tactics relating abortions to the incidence of breast cancer (false) are all tools the anti-choice movement uses to make abortion look like the worst possible choice a woman could make, when in reality it is sometimes the best, and should always be HER decision.

Abortion isn't a great thing. I'm not celebrating it. But it's supposed to be legal in America, and the vast majority of restrictions put upon it do more harm to women than good. I may be in the minority here, but that's just what I think.

Cory said...

I won't get into this much but just because something is legal doesn't mean it doesn't need restrictions.

For instance, I may legally drive, but I may not legally drive over the speed limit. Or, I may legally buy a gun, but I must also wait a period of time before I purchase it.

Both things are legal, and rightly so, but it would be absurd to make them legal without restriction.

LynnaeEtta said...

Hey guys,

Thanks for posting, all of you! Molly, how do you know FOCA won't get passed? Just curious. I recognize that abortion is legal, but I think that the regulations states have established are important, especially if it's to be "safe, legal & rare", as Clinton put it (and I think Obama said something similar at one point in time, but I'm not positive). Regardless of the facility, having an abortion can be risky; removing those regulations seems irresponsible to me.

Cory, thanks for your thoughts, too. It's good to hear from you. rock. :)

Molly said...

The reason I believe FOCA will never pass is because even among people who consider themselves pro-choice, restrictions remain an important "safeguard" to ensure (at least in their minds) that the choice will stay "safe legal and rare". And I agree that it ought to be all of those things. My problem is the 16 year old girl who gets pregnant either through lack of access to contraceptives or her own ignorance of how to use them correctly - or even just plain old irresponsibility - and cannot tell her parents for fear of the abuse she might endure. My problem is waiting periods and counseling that are paternalistic, condescending, and incredibly impractical for a woman who often has to travel hundreds of miles to even find an abortion clinic in the first place. It is not cheap to have a first trimester abortion, let alone a second. That expense, plus the cost of staying overnight in a strange city, can be prohibitive for many low income women.

These may seem like far fetched situations to you, but they are not, and they are what cause women to either keep pregnancies they never wanted or to terminate them in unsafe manners. That is what I am most afraid of.

Molly said...

Also, it's obvious that Obama has been trying hard to appear a bit more moderate than he is - I think the Rick Warren invitation is proof of that. Whenever it was that he said he would pass FOCA, he was trying to appeal to the more liberal base of the party. He doesn't have that luxury anymore. Passing FOCA would greatly displease a lot of people who may have voted for him in spite of his abortion views, like you Lynnae.

Molly said...

sorry, I just realized that I don't actually know if you voted for him or not - nor do you have to disclose that, of course. But you get the drift.

LynnaeEtta said...

Hey Molly - no worries about assuming who I voted for. And yes, I get your drift: passing FOCA is politically difficult because of the strong opposition to it. That makes sense.

To your point about the 16-year-old girl, I'd love to see more work put into better sex education at an earlier age (that includes teaching on everything from condom use to abstinence), before kids start experimenting naively and irresponsibly. Granted, that likely won't change some teenagers' fascination with risky behavior, but it seems to me like it could help mitigate some unwanted pregnancies.

Molly said...

I couldn't agree more.

Sheryl said...

OK Lynnae...I couldnt help but research the actual bill. And after reading the text of the legislation, I have to disagree with your presentation of FOCA.

FOCA reads,
“A government may not (1) deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose – (A) to bear a child; (B) to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability; or (C) to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman; or (2) discriminate against the exercise of the rights set forth in paragraph (1) in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.

I think that people are reading this bill incorrectly. Remember that the Partial Birth Abortion Act (2003) prohibits certain abortions. Even if FOCA caused the PBAA to beceom moot, the language "prior to fetal viability" and "...when necessary to protect the life of the mother" do infact impose restrictions on a woman seeking an abortion.

I could not find any funding provision in the ACT, so claims that the public would have to pay for abortions are speculative at best.

The argument that religously based Hospitals will be forced to perform abortions, falls short because hospitals are private institutions, not state actors. As you can read above, FOCA prohibits government from certain interfernce, not private institutions. The National Women's Law center explained that, FOCA must be read currently with exisiting laws, unless it explicitly states it is to reapeal an old law." I read FOCA and it says nothing about repealing the "Church Amendment" which states that a hospital does not become a state actor just because it receives funds from the State.

Yes, parental notification will be abolished. Whether you agree that it is a minor's right to choose her/his own fate/fate of the fetus is up for debate.

In summary, FOCA clearly states its intent....Every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child. I support that intent.

LynnaeEtta said...

Sheryl, you forced me to do what I should have done from the start - read the FOCA bill myself! I'm slightly ashamed to admit I didn't do my research first.

Point taken on the funding provisions and the religious hospitals being forced to perform abortions - neither of those are expressly stated in the act itself. As I read the act, I found myself wondering if an argument could be made against abortion from a constitutional perspective, so I did a google search and found post, "A Purely Secular, Constitutional Argument Against Abortion" (

The author makes the point that, "when seeking to potentially deprive one of life, liberty or property", the burden of proof is on the State, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the personhood (or non-yet personhood) of one being denied their rights. I think you get where I'm going (and this blogger): has it been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that a fetus isn't a person, especially before fetal viability?

I know I'm coughing up someone else's argument, but I think he makes a good point, especially if you're looking for a constitutional argument instead of a moral one.

MaryAnn said...

The language posted by Sheryl re: intent of FOCA is very interesting: "Every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child." I agree with that statement: every woman does have the right to choose to bear a child. But that should have nothing to do with abortion, which is the choice to end a pregnancy, and thus NOT to bear a child. two very different choices. A more honest stated intent might be "every woman has the right to end an pregnancy, for whatever reason."