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The FOCA Phantom: What will pro-lifers do without it?

The focus of much of the Catholic right's doomsday prophesying about Barack Obama, a.k.a. the anti-Christ (see Stafford, Cardinal Francis, et al) has been about the inevitability of Obama signing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would enshrine Roe into federal law and make abortion-on-demand part of a mandatedkindergarten curriculum and push the Catholic Church back into the catacombs and lead to violence against bishops, who have said they will happily be martyrs for this cause, and gosh, all sorts ofthings unheard of since the days before Constantine. (George Weigel had the latest from Babylon here.)Lost in all this prophesying is any recognition that the people who would need to pass FOCA think it's a bad idea and that it'd never pass, much less get to President Obama's desk. NCR's new publisher, Joe Feuerhard, has a solid take on the politics involved here, including the apt observation that Obama's 2007 pledge to Planned Parenthood to sign FOCA was political "pandering." Joe's bottom line: "FOCA has as much chance of passage as the 0-10 Detroit Lions have of winning the next Super Bowl." (Ouch.)So why the focus on FOCA by Catholic conservatives? I'd say a couple of things: One, the election was a resounding defeat for their camp, and exposed division in the church and within the pro-life movement. While they retrench, they need to keep the focus on an enemy, and FOCA serves that purpose. The pro-life movement has largely been an opposition movement, and that dynamic is hard to change, and it could hurt fundraising at a bad time for all fundraisers. Two, the conservatives can also claim "credit" for defeating FOCA when it does not become law.The problem of course is that this straw men and red herrings divert us all from the hard work to be done on this issue, both within the church and in the public square. Opposition to FOCA should be part of that, to keep the pressure on and pols honest. But using a phantom FOCA as a single-issue means of demonizing one's political opponents does no good to one's cause, or the wider society.

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Todd--My apologies for my "patronizing and unnecessary" remark. I violated my own rule of allowing some time to pass before responding to something that gets me fired up. I'm usually very even-tempered, like our president-elect. In fact, it's a quality I admire in him and will seek to emulate.I think you and I still have our disagreements, but I've noticed we share some common ground as signatories to the Vox Nova open letter. (I noticed David Nickol is also a signatory.) I'm all for finding common ground. It doesn't mean that paths won't eventually diverge on some issues, but the good will and cordiality developed in finding common ground would hopefully carry over when differences are discussed.

But John McG, for some, criticizing divisive rhetoric and empty politicking, and calling for more productive dialogue and activism, is a form of advocating for the unborn.

Let me re-focus -- I am not in a position to judge individual's commitment to the unborn, nor is it my place to do so. For all I know, everyone I criticize may spend every spare moment volunteering at crisis pregnancy centers and have adopted multiple children, and donate large sums to crisis nurseries. I regret if my comments have taken the direction of character evaluation.What I do challenge is whether taking shots at the pro-life movement and conservative bishops is the best use of these writers' talents and forum, given the current political and cultural state. It strikes me as perverse that faced with a legislation backed by the president elect that would, among other things, require Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, a Catholic commentator would criticize the pro-life movement for mobilizing to oppose it.I understand that commentators will tend to focus on matters that are controversial, but what would a reader conclude was most important to these commentators based on their writings here?

This will sound like "concern trolling," but...I suppose it's possible that some commentators have a unique charism to only confront nasty rhetoric and conterproductive political tactics (just as it's possible that others' charism is just to hold bishops accountable for being insufficiently strict with pro-choice politicians)Nevertheless, I have to suspect that such criticism would have much more traction if it was perceived as coming from an insider rather than an outsider, and that is where the occasional straightforward post criticizing some aspect of the current culture would be helpful.Do I expect them to campaign for GOP candidates? No. But maybe just highlight a worthy pro-life charity without a snide comment about how *real* pro-lifers ought to support it.

The attitude of People say Im not pro-life enough so I may as well join NARAL is childish from someone who claims to be concerned about the unborn. And other than the comment I apologize for above, I stand by everything Ive written.John McG,But that's not what I said. Let me take your paraphrase and turn it into what I meant, since what I meant wasn't all that clear. Instead of saying, "People say Im not pro-life enough so I may as well join NARAL, I would say, "People say I am not pro-life enough, and even though I am much closer to the pro-life side than I am to NARAL, which I have no intention of joining, they would lump me in with NARAL supporters. You are either with them 100 percent, or you are against them."

John, I still feel like the response to your argument is inherent in your argument. "Given the current political and cultural state," I (and probably some of my colleagues) think it's crucial that there be some voices from within the Catholic community looking critically at what sort of tactics further the prolife cause and what tactics may actually do it harm. "What would a reader conclude was most important to these commentators based on their writings here?" That may depend on the reader's preconceptions. I assume most people who post about abortion here are hoping to see the Catholic message of the dignity of life fall on receptive ears and effect lasting change. You are right, though, that highlighting worthy prolife charities (for example) is something we could do more of here. I'm not sure it should be necessary to establish anyone's credentials, but it could still be done for its own sake.

"NCRs new publisher, Joe Feuerhard, has a solid take on the politics involved here, including the apt observation that Obamas 2007 pledge to Planned Parenthood to sign FOCA was political pandering. "I found Mr. Feuerhard's analysis lacking. Has anyone does a serious study of who in the Democratic caucus on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees would not vote it out of committee? And who in the caucus would not vote for cloture after that? My broader question is people keep saying this is a straw man and some sort of controversial bill but I just don't see it being controversial among the Democratic caucus. Has anyone given names of Democratic legislators who are openly opposed to it or who based on previous votes on these matters would vote against it? The sponsor of the bill, Senator Boxer, is the Chief Deputy Whip for goodness sake and one of the most powerful members of the caucus - I feel that the followers of the President Elect are too quick to dismiss this as some sort of red herring when, for example, Ellen Moran, executive director of EMILY's List was just named the White House Communications Director.And the "political pandering" comments here above are quite frankly frightening. If this is true, I don't see any rational basis to believe the President Elect has any intention of finding common ground with the pro-life movement or reducing the number of abortions globally as David N. and others have suggested - seems like he was just pandering to a segment of the pro-life movement who otherwise share his worldview, to placate their misgivings over abortion to win their votes.

"Where are the numbers? Whats the plan? I keep asking but find no response or answers. That is unfortunate, for everyone."That David Gibson keeps asking for this info and gets no response but spin speaks volumes.

Where's yout plan, Bill? Where's David's plan? All I'm seeing is potshots at their borther and sisters (and spirutual fathers) who are trying to do God's work.

John McG, I think we are talking past each other, or just don't see eye to eye. Perhaps there will be concrete developments in the future to clarify matters, hopefully for the best for all concerned. Peace.

That last one was a little harsh; I apologize.Mr. Gibson hints at a fairly serious charge -- that pro-lifers, in particular politically minded ones -- are all talk, aren't willing to help women in crisis pregnancies, an aren't willing to support children when they are born.This is a much more serious slander than anything said here about President Elect Obama.Yet, the conservative pro-lifers are the ones called mean,uncivil, etc.--And if "moderat voices," are being shouted down, who is at fault? Didn't Gibson himself link to a story last week about the South Carolina priest who wanted to deny communion to Obama voters? Why was this newsworthy? Why not highlight more moderate voices?

Is there any hard data on the efforts of pro-lifers? Or are we simply relying on Amy Welborn's assertions?

One tactic of activists everywhere is to claim the sky is about to fall. That's so for activists on both sides in the abortion debate - not only the bishops.FOCA picked up steam after the Supreme Court ruled last year in Gonzalez v. Planned Parenthood that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 was constitutional. Planned Parenthood has ever since used the ruling to rally its own supporters, claiming that the court approved a "federal abortion ban" that contravenes Roe v. Wade.I don't think Planned Parenthood will get what it wants on this, but it is a lobbyist to be reckoned with in a Democrat-controlled Washington. I can see where anti-abortion forces would want to respond, given the election of a president who supports FOCA.The further various bishops immerse themselves in politics, though, the worse they seem to be at it. The angriest and, in some cases, least politically sophisticated voices have been taking the lead. Unless they come up with a better strategy than the one they are using now, they will damage their cause.

Let me note, if I may, that not only the educated 'laity' has arrived but a people who insist that our spiritual leaders be responsible. This is a very hopeful time for the church. Hopefully this denotes the end of sacralization.

I am not sure how pro-life pregnancy center stats are related to the topic of this post except that DavidG's initial mockery of pro-lifers was smacked down so he felt the need to change the subject. There is a not-so-subtle illogical assumption above, not uncommon here, that "if you can't give me the exact calculated quantification I demand immediately, then whatyou are saying is nonexistent. Nevertheless, crisis pregnancy centers are the most widespread effort in the pro-life movement and they have been for decades. Pro-life people are overwhelmingly putting their money where their mouths are in terms of what people here like to call abortion reduction, by which they mean unspecified government funding for pregnant women, but by which pro-lifers privately fund pregnant women, and this enterprise is precisely what Obama and his abortionist controllers want to outlaw. So it is no surprise that the Obama campaigners here wish to deny the existence of pro-life care for pregnant women, because if it doesn't exist, it isn't their fault for helping outlaw it, and for the increase of abortions.Let's approach this from the sources that bloggers here trust. Go to the websites of the Feminist Majority Foundation, NARAL, PLanned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and all those whose agenda Obama promises to unswervingly support and fund. There you will find an extensive campaign against "anti-choice deceptive fake clinics" and the like, highlighting how broad and wide and well organized and funded these evil efforts are and how they must be exposed and outlawed. Further research will reveal extensive hit pieces and investigations, even involving pro-abortion elected officials (Democrats) on various states and even right there in New York trying to run these numerous facilities out of business. Of course it is somewhat curious that this campaign should exist to stop a non-existent, ineffective phenomenon as the pro-life pregnancy center. Or perhaps you can look from another perspective. Each pro-life pregnancy center chain (such as CareNet and Heartbeat) has its own statistics on the number of centers, and those centers' budgets. There are also independent centers. There are also diocesean Gabriel projects. There are also specific ministries in dioceses--some have a diocese wide policy for Catholic hospitals to treat women in crisis pregnancies for free. Some states fund crisis pregnancy centers (though federal funding will end under Obama). Suffice it to say there are about three or four times as many pro-life centers as there are abortion facilities in the US. There are maybe around 700 of the latter, and a quick google search gives you the opportunity to find the closest one to you among thousands. These centers are lay run and they are ecumenical. Of course there is no specific calculation of the amount of money and time that Catholics in particular have given to these centers, but if you actually spend time to talk to or get to know anyone in the pregnancy center movement, you will discover that Catholic lay people and money and diocesean support are a tremendous support behind them. Why don't you call CareNet or do some digging yourself, or take a trip to your local CPC and talk to them before you come on here to suggest they dont exist? But what am I talking about--pro-life pregnancy centers are really a phantom. The real way to reduce abortions is to outlaw imaginary movements.Which brings us back to FOCA. What else will Obama do DavidG? Well I've only listed it for you several dozen times. But since the project here was to deny that Obama means anything other than keeping Roe in place, it is no wonder that you contend there is nothing to fear except less funding for Planned Parenthood, and that Kmiec and his court continue to call it false that Obama has a pro-abortion agenda. But, let's try one more time shall we? Anti-Hyde amendment, forcing taxpayer funding of abortions. Free abortions in universal health care. International abortion funding without the Mexico City policy. Embryo killing well beyond what McCain supported. Expanded funding for the largest abortionist business in the country, Planned Parenthood. Elimination of funding for pro-life pregnancy centers, and helping pro-abortion groups outlaw them in the states and even under some federal measures. Elimination of conscience protections. Expansion of abortion-by-drug RU-486 and the like. Pro-aborts at every agency dealing with health and abortion. Court of Appeals judges to strike down state restrictions on abortion that actually reduce abortion numbers--and don't forget keeping or expanding Roe for another 20 years by supreme court appoinments. The list goes on.As for the NCR's "solid take" on the politics of this matter, too bad Feuerhard didn't actually tell us anything, like which senators or representatives will vote against FOCA. The dems have a near fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate and there are several pro-abort republicans. In the house they have well over a majority. Tell me which Democrats in the senate will vote against cloture. Just name them, and make sure you name enough to make up for the pro-abortion republicans. Feuerhard gave us several mere assertions and witticisms, and no factual political analysis of numbers whatsoever--because the real issue is, which Democrats will defect, and he named no one. The only "fanciful" notion is that there is no threat of it getting through both houses with these overwhelming majorities.

clarification: paragraph 4 should end saying that there are about 700 abortion facilities, but web searches showing thousands of pro-life pregnancy centers

more ghost sightings:http://www.heartbeatinternational.org/about_us.htmhttp://www.time.com/ti... to see here. please move along.

Okay, no survey. I'm surprised that Pew or CARA or some sociologist of religion hasn't done one. It seems to me that the data would be interesting.

Matt Bowman of the Alliance Defense Fund writes:"...So it is no surprise that the Obama campaigners here wish to deny the existence of pro-life care for pregnant women...""...Lets approach this from the sources that bloggers here trust. Go to the websites of the Feminist Majority Foundation, NARAL, PLanned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and all those whose agenda Obama promises to unswervingly support and fund...""... Well Ive only listed it for you several dozen times. But since the project here was to deny that Obama means anything other than keeping Roe in place, it is no wonder that you contend there is nothing to fear except less funding for Planned Parenthood, and that Kmiec and his court continue to call it false that Obama has a pro-abortion agenda..."Enough. You called Cathleen Kaveny, Doug Kmiec, and others liars in your last appearance on this blog, which probably should have been your last appearance on this blog. Consider this a final warning, Matt. If you care to participate in this space, you need to do so in good faith, not assuming the worst of your interlocutors at every turn. It is clear to me that you want to believe that the bloggers here and many of the site's readers are essentially in the tank for the prochoice lobby. That is an absurd assumption--and it's a tell. You know nothing about Commonweal. You've done your homework on the abortion issue. Now do some on the magazine whose blog hosts your regular attacks.

Grant you have never responded substantively to my arguments--and they have always been arguments with reasons, not flames, capable of response--instead you and other similar messages simply tell be to be quiet. It's more evidence of what you call absurd. John McG, above, demonstrated well the consistent drumbeat here, given the fact that every single abortion post of theirs in the past few months has been against pro-life efforts or persons and in defense of Obama and pro-abortion politicians and thier agenda (calling it pro-life), and on this thread alone Prof. Kaveny and DavidG confirmed his view by "absurdly" concluding that there is no evidence that pro-life people give extensive concrete help to women--only the mere assertion of Amy Welborn, even in the face of extensive documentation. Observers can make up their own minds about whether there is a consistent abortion-facilitating slant here. But when Obama shortly begins implementing his full-scale abortion expansion measures, people won't have to rely on any commenter's interpretation. We will all see whether the authors systematically fight his actions, or defend them and diminish their impact and attack his opponents, or ignore what they can't recharacterize. It will start with the federal money flooding to international abortionists on January 21 (or he'll do it on the 22nd, which is much more tasteful). Google within commonwealmagazine.org for "Mexico City" and tell me how many times the authors here have opposed or even mentioned negatively that Obama will revoke this policy--I find zero--and how many times in fact what you find is pro-life commenters who try to point out this policy among many in response to a blog post that itself calls Obama pro-life and ridicules pro-life opponents of Obama and ignores his abortion expansion agenda. And then compare that to what the authors produce in the next six months, and at the end of it all ask what is an absurd conclusion about their perspective.

Wow. I'm somewhat new to this blog, so may be this is unusual. But do the editors always threaten posters who rebut the arguments/presumptions of other editors and then support their refutation with previously requested data?

ETH--better be careful!

and on this thread alone Prof. Kaveny and DavidG confirmed his view by absurdly concluding that there is no evidence that pro-life people give extensive concrete help to womenonly the mere assertion of Amy Welborn, even in the face of extensive documentation.Matt,Kathleen said, "Is there any hard data on the efforts of pro-lifers? Or are we simply relying on Amy Welborns assertions?" She then said, "Okay, no survey. Im surprised that Pew or CARA or some sociologist of religion hasnt done one. It seems to me that the data would be interesting."It is a very strange reading of her two posts to accuse her of saying there was "no evidence." She's looking for data, surveys, sociological studies. One major question would be if the people intensely involved in the politics of trying to overturn Roe v Wade are also involved in doing the kind of work Amy Welborn described. Or are there two fairly separate groups -- the politically involved and the volunteers who work in places like crisis pregnancy centers. One of the big questions in my mind, which I have written about quite a bit, is why those fighting the legal battle against Roe v Wade are not also fighting a legal battle for government to alleviate poverty and try to help women prevent unwanted pregnancies or deal with them once they are pregnant. The Church says it is the role of government and law to prohibit abortion and to reform society so that every child can be truly welcomed in the world and every woman has a concrete, honorable, and possible alternative to abortion. I commend people who work toward that end, and of course every volunteer and nonprofit group who does that work is welcome. But the Church says it is also the role of government. My question, as always, is who in the pro-life movement is calling for the government to play the role the Church says it must in the Declaration on Procured Abortion?

ETH: Is it a "threat" to ask someone to "participate in good faith"? What exactly is Matt Bowman being threatened with -- aside from not being allowed to play in this sandbox if he can't follow the playground rules? Dissenting opinions from all corners are welcome here; and you'll find them in pretty much every comment thread. Bad manners are not welcome. Is it shocking that dotCommonweal should draw the line at hosting repetitive attacks on the supposed bad morals and dark ulterior motives of its own contributors? In essence, what we expect -- and I don't think this is asking a lot -- is that before a commenter takes up the theme of "This is so typical of Commonweal," they actually be familiar with Commonweal. And I think that's a reasonable baseline rule for Commonweal's blog.

Matt,The Time Magazinearticle you provided a link to is very balanced, but it does raise some disturbing issues about crisis pregnancy centers.

ETH--I think that's a "Yes".

There's no point or profit for anyone in responding to some of the ignominious commentary above, and we can't assume that commenters here are representative of the "pro-life" lobby (I use scare quotes to designate those involved in the political process, which is not always synonymous with the social, cultural, and religious process). Or that folks checking in here would have access to perfect knowledge of the field. Still, I was genuinely hoping for more hard information and thought-provoking ideas as to where to go now from the abortion lobby. The reason I asked about concrete program and projects and stats related to the church's work to support pregnant mothers and reduce abortion is that there was no response to the political challenge presented by the GOP's loss. This was not moving goalposts, just an effort to try to focus the debate on rational, civil conversation about specific actions that the church could take--the second front of "abortion reduction" that Cardinal Rigali et al say is the flip side of the legal front. That there is no answer to those questions here does not mean that they don't exist, but that there cannot be reasoned discussion about current projects/programs/plans or debate about what is the best course does not bode well for the pro-life movement, it seems to me.

"there is no answer to those questions" about what specific actions the prolife movement is taking to reduce abortion. we're merely relying on Amy Welborn's assertionsthere is no pro-life pregnancy center movement that Obama's handlers plan to make illegalthere is no spoon

Admittedly, I don't know the history of commenter Matt Bowman and dotCommonweal. Hence my question and stating that I was new to this blog.Mollie Wilson O'Reilly: Are you saying that I'm "tak[ing] up the theme of 'This is so typical of Commonweal'" before actually being familiar with the blog or that Matt Bowman is taking (and has taken) up said theme without being familiar with the blog? The latter seems unlikely since he appears to be familiar with the blog and vis-versa. So if you're suggesting the former, all I can say is I didn't even know there was any such a theme--although I'm beginning to suspect why such sentiments would develop. You have my word that I'm reading this blog for the commentary, not to bring it down from within as some saboteur from First Things. Also, yes, it is a "threat"--albeit a very minor and reasonable one--to effectively say, "act politely and in good faith or you'll get banned from this blog."

ETH: No, I don't mean to accuse you of taking up any theme. But that's what Grant called Matt B. out for doing (above), and not for the first time. It's not just that he's misrepresenting dotCommonweal, the blog (with which he is certainly familiar), but that he's ignoring, or ignorant of, the context provided by Commonweal, the magazine that hosts this blog. As for "threat," I guess you're right. I think "warning" is more apt, but maybe that's just because what's being threatened does seem so minor and reasonable.Welcome, by the way, and I hope you'll keep on reading. We're honestly not entertaining conspiracy theories or concerns about sabotage. Just trying to keep things reasonably polite.

BTW, not that I can salvage this thread from a death spiral, but there are two considerations on this issue that seem relevant:ONE: There is an argument to be made for continuing the focus on overturning Roe given that despite Obama's victory, there is a good chance that he'll get to name just one or at most two (Stevens and maybe Ginsburg--God forbid this should lead to anything!) justices, and in effect just replace a reliably pro-Roe vote. It would really not change the court's composition. Then the anti-Roe folks could hold out for a GOP victory in 2012. Problems with this: The actuarial tables may not help a future Republican either, as he'd have to be in at least two terms to start to make a difference. And of course there's an argument to be made that even GOP justices will not overturn Roe. And of course, what would overturning Roe do, etc. It would also put anti-Roe forces in the position of working against the success of an Obama presidency at a time when the country is on the brink of catastrophe and needs a successful term, or two. TWO: The other factor is whether the pro-lifers will still have a reliable party patron in 2012. The current debates among conservatives and within the GOP referenced in posts above by Peter Nixon indicate the depth of the divisions and the height of the stakes. If the GOP starts to soften its anti-Roe position or rhetoric to garner votes, what then?Just food for hopefully some concrete discussion.

ETH,It's been my experience that unmoderated forums on the Internet tend to deteriorate and die. If moderators are to keep dotCommonweal alive and well, they have to be granted some leeway in keeping order, even if there is not unanimous agreement about what they do every time they step in. Having posted comments here for well over a year, I can say that intervention by the contributors is rare, and they are very patient people.We are guests here, and it seems to me guests owe their hosts a certain amount of respect and deference. It's one thing to disagree on specific issues, even repeatedly and consistently, with the official contributors and the people who comment. That keeps things interesting. It is another thing to criticize dotCommonweal itself and all of its contributors and most of its commenters. If you believe a forum is that hostile to you and your beliefs, then maybe it's the wrong forum for you.

If one is curious about the "concrete program[s] and projects and stats related to the churchs work," why not try to get involved with the local pro-life movement and find out for oneself? There probably any number of activities at one's local parish, as well as pro-life events or charities sponsored by other churches or by no particular church at all. Then one might have a better feel for what is, and what is not, being accomplished.

There is an argument to be made for continuing the focus on overturning Roe . . . .David G,What always comes to mind when I think of overturning Roe is this: Can anybody point to another country where opinion was as divided as it is in the United States where abortion law went from less restrictive to more restrictive? I have not done a comprehensive survey, but I think Poland is one of the rare cases where abortion restrictions have been very substantially increased. The trend in democracies tends to be to lessen restrictions rather than to increase them. That doesn't necessarily mean it shouldn't or can't happen in the United States. But as far as I can tell, it would be highly atypical.

I just wanted to second Matt Bowman (and myself I guess from yesterday) - this post is titled the FOCA "Phantom" and I have still yet to see who in the supermajority Democratic caucus would vote against a bill sponsored by their own Chief Deputy Whip, Senator Boxer.

I just wanted to second Matt Bowman (and myself I guess from yesterday) - this post is titled the FOCA Phantom and I have still yet to see who in the supermajority Democratic caucus would vote against a bill sponsored by their own Chief Deputy Whip, Senator Boxer.MAT,How many Democratic politicians do you think there are who would want to go on record now opposing (or even supporting) a controversial bill that is not even under consideration? That's not the way politicians work. Did Obama even say anything about FOCA aside from his remark to Planned Parenthood? Has Nancy Pelosi said it is on the legislative agenda? She was very clear about stem-cell research being a priority, but she has said nothing about FOCA. Here is the take of someone named Kurt on Vox Nova who clearly knows what he is talking about:

After the S.C. upheld the Partial Birth Abortion ban, the abortion rights lobby threw this bill in the hopper to make a statement that it should not be assumed that if Roe is overturned, they do not have the political muscle to keep abortion legal.The bill remained a rhetorial vehicle, not a serious piece of legislation. Pro-Life activists certainly cannot be faulted for using it to whip up their troops as well.But if we are looking for common ground rather than polarization, the time for whipping up should take a back seat to dialgoue.I cant find a soul on Capitol Hill that expects a hearing, let alone even a subcommittee vote on this measure.

Can anybody prove right now that FOCA won't be taken up in the future? No. But there is no sign of it happening at the moment. As I mentioned, it's an absolute fact that the Pelosi and Obama are going to take quick action on stem-cell research, but the outcry at the moment from the pro-life movement is totally focused on abortion. Why is that?

At the risk of contributing to this thread's "death spiral," I'll take a stab at why Roe should be reversed in and of itself: It contains very bad constitutional analysis. (And I say this not as some whacked-out hardcore conservative, but as a whacked-out hardcore liberal.) Roe was judicial overreaching of the worst sort. Some of the staunchest pro-choice legal scholars agree:http://americasfuture.org/doublethink/2005/11/roe-was-wrong/For example, Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe, whose pro-choice bona fides are unimpeachable, had this to say about the Roe decision: One of the most curious things about Roe is that, behind its own verbal smokescreen, the substantive judgment on which it rests is nowhere to be found."IMO, there are two reasons, premised solely on constitutional law and the legal system itself, why Roe should be reversed:1. Judicial overreaching of the sort present in Roe undermines respect for the Constitution, perhaps the most important symbol of justice and fairness we have in the U.S.2. Judicial overreaching of the sort present in Roe undermines the integrity of the judicial process and the men and women charged decision making power in the judicial system.As to abortion specifically, the Roe decision truncated a national public debate about abortion that would have resulted in legislative efforts to resolve the problem. Whether those efforts would have been successful is not as important as the fact that the issue should have been addressed in the first instance by our elected officials.

"How many Democratic politicians do you think there are who would want to go on record now opposing (or even supporting) a controversial bill that is not even under consideration?"I know of at least 19 Senators who are on record in the 110th Congress, 1st Session, supporting it. Senator Obama himself became the 19th co-sponsor of the bill about 16 months ago, on May 11, 2007, so I'll take him out of the mix (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:SN01173:@@@P). On the House side, I can name 110 representatives, also in the 110th, 1st Session, in support, whose names can be found here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:HR01964:@@@P

William,I wonder, though, if most of the constitutional scholars like Tribe who believe Roe v Wade was wrongly decided believe it should be overturned. It was, after all, decided 7-2 more than 35 years ago and has other cases resting on it as a precedent. Recently we have had a lot of 5-4 decisions (for example, District of Columbia v. Heller, the recent Second Amendment case) that people thought were wrongly decided, and I don't think many people are suggesting that if Obama tips the Supreme Court the other way, they should all be overturned. What is the benefit to the country as a whole to overturn Roe v Wade? I understand why the pro-life side wants it overturned, of course, but what would the result be?

I know of at least 19 Senators who are on record in the 110th Congress, 1st Session, supporting it. . . . .MAT,An absolutely devastating response, I have to admit.

David N: Was the sarcasm really necessary? If you do not want to have a good-faith discussion about the legislative outlook for FOCA, just say so instead of insulting me. Anyway, my point is, I have yet to see anyone, wether in this thread, the Commonweal editorial, or Ms. Hennebergers Slate.com essay where someone has named one single person in the entire Democratic caucus, in either the House or Senate, who would vote against FOCA despite over 130 who are co-sponsors alone, including the President Elect himself, who became a co-sponsor of this allegedly red-herring bill 16 months ago. People who are calling FOCA a legislative impossibility have the burden of proof on them to show why a political party who has absolute control over the Legislative and Executive branches of government would not try to pass a law they themselves introduced as recently as 18 months ago and which would be extremely popular with their supporters and for an industry which is a key donor and constituent of their party. I'm a Stoic, so I can care less if FOCA passes or not, it is beyond the control of my will, although I would prefer it did not. I just think mocking the pro-life people who are frightened by it because it is some sort of straw man has non rational basis to it whatsoever until someone can provide evidence that it either (a) does not have the votes or (b) it is somehow, against all logic, contrary to the majority party's interests to pass a law that is overwhelmingly popular among their grass-roots supporters and an extremely powerful and wealthy industry lobby.

David N: Was the sarcasm really necessary? If you do not want to have a good-faith discussion about the legislative outlook for FOCA, just say so instead of insulting me.MAT,It wasn't sarcasm! I said nobody would go on record supporting a bill that wasn't under consideration. I said that's not how politics works. You pointed out 19 senators and 110 congressmen who are, in effect, on record supporting the bill. I still don't think FOCA will go anywhere at all, but I was acknowledging you had completely knocked down what I had said in that particular comment.

"It wasnt sarcasm! "Sorry. Things got a little heated above and I jumped to conclusions. Ultimately what I am saying is that while I understand you and many others, as the name of this thread implies, don't think it is going anywhere, there are people of good will who do not have any good, hard evidence to believe that. Given that, isn't the best dialog we can have on FOCA, rather than just dismiss it as a straw man, to discuss how it may actually look if it were to get to the President's desk or even if passed in current form, what provisions are unenforceable and / or reversible on constitutional grounds given the current composition of the SCOTUS? Or do we just have to sit back and wait because, as you correctly pointed out, we don't even know what the leadership has on the agenda yet for the 111th Congress?

I think there's a lot more work to do in the vineyard before Roe v. Wad is overturned, even if the next nine Supreme Court Justices are appointed by pro-life presidents. I don't think the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade so long as the consensus of elite opinion is that it should be maintained.IMO, part of that work will be framing Roe v. Wade as the extreme position it is rather than some kind of Solomonic compromise that people seem to think it is. I think a public debate on FOCA, which is branded as "codifying Roe v. Wade into law" but also does things like require Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, would draw this into focus.I think the pro-life movement fumbled the Born Alive Act functionality badly -- it could have been used to demonstrate how extreme Roe v. Wade is, and instead they went for the cheap hit of labelling Barack Obama as "pro-infanticide," which was easily dismissed as the absurdity it was.

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About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.