By Kathleen Gilbert

March 6, 2009 ( – A spokesman for Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., told the St. Louis Dispatch today that the congressman intends to introduce the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) into Congress “sooner than later.”

Spokesman Ilan Kayatsky said the legislation “is among the congressman’s priorities. We expect to reintroduce it sooner rather than later.”

Kayatsky also said he expects that the bill’s other original sponsor, Sen. Barbara Boxer, will introduce FOCA in the U.S. Senate. “We expect it to be more or less the same bill with some minor tweaks,” Kayatsky said.

Boxer’s office declined to comment.

The mainstream media largely scoffed at the pro-life outcry in recent months against FOCA, criticizing the anti-FOCA reaction for failing to emphasize that the bill had not yet been introduced to Congress.

Two weeks ago, a TIME Magazine article titled “The Catholic Crusade Against a Mythical Abortion Bill” claimed: “At a time when the United States is gripped by economic uncertainty … some American Catholics are finding it both curious and troubling that their church has launched a major campaign against a piece of legislation that doesn’t exist and wouldn’t have much chance of becoming law even if it did.”

But pro-life leaders have raised the alarm on FOCA ever since it became clear that Barack Obama, an original co-sponsor of FOCA, was on track to the presidency.  Obama once assured Planned Parenthood that “the first thing” he would do as president would be to sign the legislation. 

If passed, the Freedom of Choice Act would enshrine abortion as a “fundamental right” that no government can “deny” or even “interfere with.” This would immediately question the validity of all state and federal abortion regulations, including the partial-birth abortion ban, parental consent and notification laws, informed consent laws, and medical providers’ legal right to refuse participation in abortion on moral grounds.

In light of this last threat, U.S. Catholic bishops have led the charge against the bill, citing their concern that Catholic hospitals across the United States would be forced to choose between disobeying the law and closing altogether.  

Some bishops have confirmed they would shutter their hospitals if FOCA were enforced.

“It would not be sufficient to withdraw our sponsorship or to sell them to someone who would perform abortions. That would be a morally unacceptable cooperation in evil,” said Chicago auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki at the bishops’ annual fall meeting in Baltimore in November. 

According to the CHA, there are 624 Catholic hospitals in America, 13 percent of all American hospitals.  One of every six Americans hospitalized in the United States is cared for in a Catholic hospital.

Other bishops have opted for a strategy of civil disobedience.  Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida said that “even in the worst case scenario … We will not comply, but we will not close.” 

Bishop Paul Loverde of the Arlington, VA diocese concluded similarly at a December Theology on Tap: “You’ll have to drag me out, go right ahead. I’m not closing this hospital, we will not perform abortions, and you can go take a flying leap.”

While pro-abortion advocates accuse FOCA opponents of engaging in a “divisive campaign demonizing FOCA” to distract from other issues, pro-life leaders of every stripe continue to train their sights on the looming legislation that would, in the words of Cardinal Joseph Rigali, “obliterate virtually all the gains” of pro-lifers since Roe v. Wade. He explained, “hundreds of reasonable, widely supported, and constitutionally sound abortion regulations now in place would be invalidated,”

“We must demand that our elected representatives defeat FOCA, reminding them that what America needs is a new stream of brave Congress members committed to upholding the Civil Rights of all Americans, from the womb to natural death,” wrote Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in November.