Obama: do not focus on FOCA

The freedom of Choice Act would make the right to abortion official United State’s policy.

On Thursday afternoon, a group of University of Arkansas students gathered outside the Fayetteville Women’s Clinic to peacefully protest Roe v. Wade , the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. The Knights of Columbus , a registered student organization affiliated with St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Arkansas, sponsored the protest. The Knights also plan to be active in a St. Thomas-sponsored postcard campaign against the Freedom of Choice Act , a bill President Barack Obama promised to sign into law as one of the first acts of his presidency. In Roe v. Wade, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the constitutional right to privacy encompasses the right of every woman to decide whether to begin, prevent, continue or terminate a pregnancy. Thirty-six years and millions of abortions later, the Freedom of Choice Act would make the right to abortion official United States policy, as opposed to just a Supreme Court ruling. Furthermore, FOCA would prohibit any governmental interference with that right to abortion. Whereas the Supreme Court permits states to regulate abortion somewhat, FOCA would forbid state regulations requiring parental involvement or informed consent, as well as prohibitions of government funding of abortion or the outlawing of partial birth abortions. Clearly, FOCA is in conflict with the staunchly pro-life teaching of the Roman Catholic Church âÄî the religious organization to which the Knights of Columbus belong. The act has likely energized other pro-life organizations, as well. Do Congress and Obama really want to begin this year by enacting a law that strikes at the heart of what remains one of the most controversial and emotionally charged issues of the day? The number of abortions is declining, according to The Washington Post Web, moving the country closer to the oft-stated objective of âÄúsafe, legal and rare.âÄù Why tamper with things now? We recognize that, from a legal perspective, as long as the option to abort is considered an extension of the right to privacy, a law like FOCA makes sense. If women have the right to an abortion, the argument goes, no state has the authority to withhold that right. But we doubt the authors of FOCA when they write, âÄúIncremental restrictions on the right to choose imposed by Congress and state legislatures have made access to reproductive care extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many women across the country.âÄù To support that statement, the authors cite, âÄú87 percent of the counties in the United States have no abortion provider.âÄù What they fail to mention is that just 35 percent of women live in those counties, according to the Guttmacher Institute , a think tank that aims to advance sexual and reproductive health worldwide. They also neglect to mention the high number of U.S. abortion providers: 1,787. When we consider the typical distance between counties, as well as the apparent multitude of abortion providers in the United States, we think the division and turmoil the passage of FOCA would engender outweigh the perceived difficulty of obtaining an abortion. We hope Obama will focus on other issues, like the economy or the war, instead of instantly emphasizing an issue that will inflame passions on both sides of the aisle. Regardless of what lawmakers decide with respect to FOCA, however, we emphatically support studentsâÄô rights to express their views on any issue âÄî whether that issue is the war in Gaza or the abortion debate. And, while some have criticized pro-life activists for not devoting equal time to the protestation of the death penalty, we see no hypocrisy in students for choosing a particular cause to champion and not another, as studentsâÄô time is evidently limited. This editorial, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the Arkansas Traveler at the University of Arkansas. Please send comments to [email protected]