By Kathleen Gilbert

PHILADELPHIA, October 2, 2008 ( – In preparation for Respect Life Sunday, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia issued a statement Tuesday in which he praised the successes of the culture of life in America, but strongly warned that the proposed Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) threatens to “obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years.”

Cardinal Rigali, Chairman of the United States Committee of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said that during Respect Life Month this October the Church will sponsor pro-life initiatives that are “integral to the Church’s ongoing effort to help build a culture in which every human life without exception is respected and defended.” 

“Let us rededicate ourselves to defending the basic rights of those who are weakest and most marginalized: the poor, the homeless, the innocent unborn, and the frail and elderly who need our respect and our assistance,” the cardinal exhorted.

He hailed the decrease in abortion described in the recent Guttmacher Institute study, which found that abortions have been reduced by 58% among girls under 18. 

But Cardinal Rigali says he fears that such advances would vanish if FOCA were to become law: “We face the threat of a federal bill that, if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket.  FOCA establishes abortion as a ‘fundamental right’ throughout the nine months of pregnancy, and forbids any law or policy that could ‘interfere’ with that right or ‘discriminate’ against it in public funding and programs.

“If FOCA became law,” the cardinal warned, “hundreds of reasonable, widely supported, and constitutionally sound abortion regulations now in place would be invalidated,” including informed consent laws, freedom of conscience laws, and laws protecting women from unsafe abortion clinics and practitioners.  Restrictions on partial-birth abortion and late-term abortion would also disappear, and taxpayers would be forced to fund abortions across America.

“We cannot allow this to happen,” Cardinal Rigali urged.  “We cannot tolerate an even greater loss of innocent human lives.  We cannot subject more women and men to the post-abortion grief and suffering that our counselors and priests encounter daily in Project Rachel programs across America.

“We look forward to the day when these counseling services are no longer needed, when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. If FOCA is enacted, however, that day may recede into the very distant future.”

The Cardinal referenced a number of concerns facing the pro-life community, including euthanasia and embryonic stem-cell research, and condemned such anti-life policies and practices that “betray the ideal of America as a compassionate society honoring the inherent worth of every human being.”

Cardinal Regali praised advances in regenerative medicine achieved through adult stem-cell and umbilical cord blood and rejected the destruction of “week-old human embryos, or human beings at any stage, to extract their stem cells.”

Last month, Cardinal Rigali wrote to members of Congress, urging them to reject FOCA as it clearly “would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government to reduce abortions in our country.”

The USCCB’s Respect Life program, which promotes conferences, prayer services, and opportunities for public witness to the pro-life cause, is observed in 195 Catholic dioceses across the United States. 

To read Cardinal Rigali’s full statement, visit:

See related coverage:

Bishops To Congress: “We Can’t Reduce Abortion By Promoting Abortion”


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