The FOCA Bogeyman

Amy Sullivan has an informative piece in Time on the movement to stop a bill that has yet to be introduced. Check it out. The upshot is that the anti-FOCA hysteria -- brought to you in part by the USCCB -- has little to do with FOCA itself and a lot to do with disillusionment on the Catholic right with the Catholic electorate's swing towards Obama in the last election. Here's a taste:

The campaign against FOCA, which would essentially codify the Roe v. Wade decision by saying the government can't place limits on abortions performed before viability, began shortly after Barack Obama's election in November, at the annual general meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). In a unanimous decision, the bishops voted to "mobilize the resources of the USCCB, dioceses and the entire Catholic community" to oppose the act.A chain e-mail of unknown origin soon began making its way into Catholic inboxes, warning of an imminent threat to the anti-abortion cause. "For those of you who do not know," it read, "the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is set to be signed if Congress passes it on January 21-22 of 2009. The FOCA is the next sick chapter in the book of abortion." The e-mail urged Catholics to say a novena a devotion of dedicated prayer for nine successive days beginning on Jan. 11 and ending the day prior to Inauguration Day. (See pictures of Pope Benedict XVI's trip to America.)When Jan. 22 came and went without a Freedom of Choice Act becoming law, the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities announced a nationwide postcard campaign to blanket congressional offices and the White House with appeals to stop FOCA. Anti-FOCA groups on Facebook soon had more than 150,000 members and added thousands more each day. Priests started preaching against the legislation, and churches began circulating petitions to oppose its passage.In the midst of all this activity, the fact that there was no Freedom of Choice Act before the 111th Congress went largely unnoticed and unmentioned.

Eduardo M. Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. The views expressed in the piece are his own, and should not be attributed to Cornell University or Cornell Law School.

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