By Hilary White

KANSAS CITY, Missouri, October 2, 2008 ( – Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo. has issued a pastoral warning to his flock that the proposed Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would “immediately make null and void every current restriction on abortion in all jurisdictions.” The federal legislation, introduced in April 2007, would, the bishop warns, “unleash – on a national level – a complete and unrestricted access to abortion.”

A leading US pro-abortion organisation agrees with the bishop’s assessment. The National Organization of Women (NOW) said that FOCA “would sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws, policies.” Planned Parenthood also agreed, saying, “The legislation (FOCA) would invalidate existing and future laws that interfere with or discriminate against the exercise of the [abortion] rights protected. It also would provide an individual aggrieved by a violation of the act a private right of civil action in order to obtain appropriate relief.”

When Senator Barack Obama addressed a Planned Parenthood event on July 17, 2007, he said, “The first thing I will do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.”

Bishop Finn, while not mentioning Senator Obama’s name, wrote, “When a candidate …  promises to promote – or to ‘sign immediately upon taking office’ – the Freedom of Choice Act, Catholics and all people of good will have cause to question the sincerity of the candidate’s determination to reduce abortions.” Bishop Finn noted that the abortion rate has been falling amongst teens, suggesting that this is due to “these already existing limits” that “have caused a decrease of more than 100,000 abortions each year.”

FOCA would eliminate conscience protection for physicians, he said, and would require states to fund abortions.

The bill reads, “A government may not (1) deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose – (A) to bear a child; (B) to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability; or (C) to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman; or (2) discriminate against the exercise of the rights set forth in paragraph (1) in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.

“This act applies to every Federal, State, and local statute, ordinance, regulation, administrative order, decision, penalty, practice, or other action enacted, adopted, or implemented before or after the date of enactment of this act.”

FOCA at a stroke would reverse many of the gains won by the pro-life movement in the US in the last twenty years. It would overturn state abortion reporting requirements in all 50 states; forty-four states’ laws concerning parental involvement; forty states’ laws on restricting later-term abortions; forty-six states’ conscience protection laws for individual health care providers; twenty-seven states’ conscience protection laws for institutions; thirty-eight states’ bans on partial-birth abortions; thirty-three states’ laws on requiring counselling before an abortion; and sixteen states’ laws concerning ultrasounds before an abortion.

Bishop Finn said that while it may be permissible to vote for a candidate “in spite of” his support for abortion, “it seems we are morally obliged to establish a proportionate reason sufficient to justify the destruction of 45 million human persons through abortion.”

If a candidate, however, “pledges – through an instrument such as FOCA – to eliminate all existing limitations against abortion, it is that much more doubtful whether voting for him or her can ever be morally justified under any circumstance,” Bishop Finn concluded.