"Just So Ninities"

Steven Mosher
by Colin Mason
PRI Weekly Briefing
09 February 2009
Vol. 11 / No. 05
Reproduced with Permission

We all remember Obama's campaign rhetoric. "This election is not just about playing defense, it's also about playing offense," he said to cheers and shouts from Planned Parenthood in 2007. "When the real war is being fought abroad, they would have us fight 'culture wars' here at home. But I am absolutely convinced that culture wars are 'just so nineties.'"

As if this were not clear enough, he went on to seal the deal by promising the gathering in no uncertain terms that the "first thing I would do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act."

Mr. President, we pro-lifers think that the FOCA is "just so nineties." It should be left in the past with the outdated anti-child, anti-woman sentiments it embodies.

This legislation, if passed, would cement an abortion-on-demand ethic into American law and effectively muzzle anyone who dissented (see PRI's analysis of FOCA here).

Pro-lifers must remember, however, that Obama's promises ring somewhat pretentious, since they are predicated on the idea that the FOCA would magically be sitting on his desk when he arrived in the Oval Office. This was most emphatically not the case, and if pro-lifers have anything to do with it, it never will be.

Just as a human life amendment is a sort of Holy Grail for the pro-life movement, so Freedom of Choice Act is that ultimate prize for the pro-abortion Left. Its language is unwavering and clear. If passed, the FOCA would prohibit the government from any interference with a woman's "right" to "terminate a pregnancy prior to viability or . . . after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman."  It would also prohibit "discrimination . . . in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information."

As such, however, the FOCA leaves no room for "moderates" on the abortion issue. As PRI reported in our earlier Weekly Briefing on this topic, the FOCA's language is as sweeping as it is defining—meaning that it has served as a sort of abortion "litmus test" in the past. Now, when the abortion lobby has not only a Congressional majority but a friendly president-elect, this aspect of the FOCA may come back to haunt them.

At least, that's the hope.

In the past, the FOCA has been shot down not simply by abortion opponents, but by moderates on either side of the political aisle. These moderates, uncomfortable with the bill's hard-partisan line, balked at passing it and effectively stalled it. Although the balance of power has shifted in Congress, many fence sitters have still to be persuaded of the bill's legitimacy.

Add to that the work of stalwart pro-lifers like Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), among others, and the bill will face a very tough battle to make it to the President's desk.

But it is still possible that the bill might pass, and it should therefore be a call to action for pro-lifers; a catalyst for grassroots activism. House Democrats recently voted to change the House's "fairness rules," changes that make it far more difficult for the minority to retain a meaningful voice in House proceedings. In addition, Obama's presence in the White House will no doubt embolden his political allies, who may take the opportunity to apply pressure to the more wavering members of their ranks.

In short, the FOCA is undoubtedly a threat. However, if the pro-life movement unites against it, it does not need to be a devastating one. Action taken by various groups to petition the incoming president (including a widespread petition by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as one put out by PRI) is very important and an appropriate level of response to this threat. It is also vitally important that pro-life groups urge their supporters to apply pressure to their Senators and Congressmen, letting them know that the FOCA is not welcome in their states and districts.

In other words, Barack Obama was assuredly telling the truth when he said that he would sign the Freedom of Choice Act, should it find its way to his desk. It is the duty of pro-lifers to ensure that it never reaches that point.