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.

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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