Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Slate: Lose-Lose on Abortion: Obama's threat to Catholic Hospitals and their Very Serious Counter Threat, by Melinda Henneberger:
If the Freedom of Choice Act passes Congress, and that's a big if, Obama has promised to sign it the second it hits his desk. (Here he is at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund event in 2007, vowing, "The first thing I'd do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing I'd do.") Though it's often referred to as a mere codification of Roe, FOCA, as currently drafted, actually goes well beyond that: According to the Senate sponsor of the bill, Barbara Boxer, in a statement on her Web site, FOCA would nullify all existing laws and regulations that limit abortion in any way, up to the time of fetal viability. Laws requiring parental notification and informed consent would be tossed out. While there is strenuous debate among legal experts on the matter, many beleive the act would invalidate the freedom-of-conscience laws on the books in 46 states. These are the laws that allow Catholic hospitals and health providers that receive public funds through Medicaid and Medicare to opt out of performing abortions. Without public funds, these health centers couldn't stay open; if forced to do abortions, they would sooner close their doors. Even the prospect of selling the institutions to other providers wouldn't be an option, the bishops have said, because that would constitute "material cooperation with an intrinsic evil."
For a response, see RH Reality Check: What Would FOCA Really Do?, by Emily Douglas:
Melinda Hennenberger has a few strong words for the President-Elect. Sign the Freedom of Choice Act (which, any reproductive health advocate could tell you, Congress is a long way away from passing), and Barack Obama will be responsible for hobbling our entire, already-compromised health care system. Why? According to Hennenberger, FOCA would require Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, and the church hierarchy would rather "turn off the lights" than provide comprehensive reproductive health care.
FOCA targets state laws that limit abortion access, yes. But FOCA would not have the conscience clause repercussions that Hennenberger suggests it might.