In a post entitled, “Why FOCA is a Nuclear Bomb,” Mark Stricherz makes the case for Catholics to oppose FOCA despite complaints from some quarters that FOCA is something of a red herring since it is unlikely to become law:
This line of argument is not outlandish. It is true that at present the chances of FOCA becoming law are slim. Even moderate Democrats support some restrictions on abortion, not their wholesale evisceration. It is also unclear that if FOCA were enacted, medical personnel unwilling to perform abortions would have to do so. But the unlikelihood that the bill will pass is not comforting, nor is the ambiguity about the bill’s constitutionality. As Rick Hertzberg wrote once, it is a 99 percent certainty that a nuclear bomb will never detonate, but the 1 percent chance that it will is terrifying.
If FOCA were enacted and fulfilled its supporters’ expectation, the legislation would be the cultural equivalent of a nuclear bomb. The Church operates 573 hospitals, which served 84.3 million patients. Surely the vast majority of these would shut down. In addition, hundreds of state and federal abortion restrictions would be struck down. Thirty five years of pro-life efforts would go down the drain.
And it is possible to imagine scenarios in which FOCA became law. Suppose Obama did become another FDR and help his party add dozens of seats in the off-year congressional elections. The Democrats might have the votes to pass FOCA. Or suppose after withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and righting the nation’s economic ship, Democratic leaders used their political capital to whip FOCA hard, pressuring moderate Democrats and liberal Republicans for their votes. (As things stand, Democrats effectively have at least 58 votes in the Senate and 257 in the House).
Obama would have to sign the legislation. While it is true that Obama has not discussed FOCA since July 2007, at the time he said it would be his first priority as president and continues to endorse the bill on his website.
It is also possible to imagine scenarios in which Catholic physicians would be unable to invoke freedom of conscience to not have to perform abortions. One of the five socially moderate or conservtive justices on the Supreme Court could step down and be replaced by a socially liberal justice. This scenario is unlikely. Then again, even Planned Parenthood’s president expressed shock that Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton had invalidated almost all of the nation’s abortion restrictions.
I would add that it is in the interest of Catholic supporters of the the Obama adminsitration to make a stink about FOCA now before it becomes an issue. The worst case scenario is that FOCA makes it out of committee for a full vote of the Congress. FOCA would still likely be voted down, but the fight would be divisive and distracting. Besides, one reason to think that FOCA would be voted down is that Catholics are expected to oppose it forcefully. No reason then for us not to do so, early and often.