Focusing On FOCA: 'Freedom Of Choice Act' Would Harm Women And Remove FreedomsBy Tom McClusky Vice President for Government Affairs
"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, on or after the date of enactment of this act. " - Text of H.R. 1964 and S. 1173, introduced on April 19, 2007.
"The legislation (FOCA) would invalidate existing and future laws that interfere with or discriminate against the exercise of the 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." - Planned Parenthood web site.
" Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, joined pro-choice members of Congress and activists at a Capitol Hill press conference to introduce legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade into law and guarantee a woman's right to choose in all 50 states. " - NARAL
When the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA - H.R. 1964 and S.1173) was introduced on April 19, 2007 , pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood, NARAL and NOW were on the podium with the sponsors, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Representative Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). It was the day after the Supreme Court decision, Gonzales v. Carhart , which upheld a very limited ban on partial-birth abortions  and the participants, while upset over that decision, sensed brighter days ahead. The Democrats had just taken over both chambers of Congress, and one of the leading Democratic presidential contenders, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), was an original cosponsor of FOCA. They knew that FOCA was not simply a bill to "codify" the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that legalized abortion in all of the United States. The legislation, if enacted, would effectively overturn hundreds of state laws that protect the rights of women, parents, children and health care personnel. The legislation is so important to those on the pro-abortion side that when the other leading Democratic presidential contender, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), addressed a Planned Parenthood event on July 17, 2007, he told the audience of pro-abortion advocates and donors, " The first thing I will do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act."  His statement garnered a standing ovation.
First, let's review the history of FOCA. The Freedom of Choice Act was first introduced in November 1989 by Representative Don Edwards (D-Calif.) and Senator Alan Cranston (D-Calif.). The legislation seemed to be a response to the Webster decision  from February of that year. Webster was the first Supreme Court decision that broadened the restrictions that could be put on the use of tax money to pay for abortions. FOCA quickly became a tool for pro-abortion politicians to declare their fealty to the abortion cause. When pro-abortion President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, Planned Parenthood had high hopes for the passage of FOCA.  The bill ended up being stuck in the Senate with the opposition led by Senator Obama's predecessor, Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.),  based on concerns that it did not go far enough. The opposition argued that "the bill allows the states to discriminate against young and poor women seeking an abortion" by ensuring conscience protections for health care personnel, not requiring states to fund abortions and allowing for parental consent in cases of minors seeking an abortion. The Senate version of the bill, S.25, explicitly stated that, "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prevent a State from protecting unwilling individuals or private health care institutions from having to participate in the performance of abortions to which they are conscientiously opposed; prevent a State from declining to pay for the performance of abortions; or prevent a State from requiring a minor to involve a parent, guardian, or other responsible adult before terminating a pregnancy." At the time, both NARAL and The New York Times, two strong supporters of abortion on demand, supported the Senate "compromise." It comes as no surprise, though, that they seem to have no problem with the current bill omitting the "compromise" language of 1993 and, instead, inserting a provision that says state and federal governments may not "discriminate against the exercise of the rights set forth in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information." Thus, the state and federal government must use taxpayer funds to pay for abortions at all stages of pregnancy. Not to do so would be discriminatory toward abortion "rights" as stated in the legislation.
Some of the supporters of the "Freedom of Choice Act" state that it merely codifies Roe v. Wade. This could not be further from the truth. As the American Civil Liberties Union said in its Reproductive Rights Update from December 20, 1991, "This [FOCA] bill prohibits such restrictions as parental notification and consent, as well as the requirement that all abortions be performed in a hospital, spousal consent, waiting periods ..." If FOCA were to pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by a pro-abortion President (President George W. Bush would certainly veto FOCA if it were to reach his desk), it would single-handedly overturn countless laws that have passed in the states in relation to abortion.
Many of the organizations that support the federal FOCA argue that removing state restrictions on abortion will actually decrease the number of abortions. According to NARAL, seven states have codified abortion on demand as defined by Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. In Maryland, Freedom of Choice-type legislation has been on the books since 1991. Since that time, Maryland law has provided for abortion on demand even late in pregnancy, granted abortionists immunity from legal action, allowed abortionists the discretion to perform abortions on minors without notifying a parent, and denied health care workers the right to refuse to make abortion referrals as a matter of conscience. This has not led to a reduction of abortions in the state, but appears to actually have had the adverse effect of increasing the abortion rate in Maryland . According to Planned Parenthood's Alan Guttmacher Institute, the abortion rate in the United States has declined nine percent since 2000 to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 2005. By contrast, the state of Maryland produced a rate of 31.5 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age, an increase of eight percent since 1991. Pro-abortion advocates argue that eliminating laws designed to protect women, parents, children and health care providers will make abortion "safe, legal and rare." While it is highly questionable whether such actions make abortion safer, allowing for unrestricted abortions only increases the likelihood of abortion, certainly not making it rarer.
In 1991, Maryland 's abortion rate was similar to the national average of 26.3 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. As seen in the Guttmacher Institute's own chart (see below), while Maryland 's abortion rate has steadily increased since the enactment of its FOCA-type law in 1991, the national abortion rate has had an equally steady decrease.
Source: Guttmacher Institute
One explanation of the decline in the national rate for abortions is the increased number of incremental laws addressing the abortion issue in each state since the Webster decision. The enactment of a federal Freedom of Choice Act would be a federalist's nightmare, overturning hundreds of state laws that have been enacted through legislation and statewide initiative and ballot referendums. If FOCA is passed, it would automatically 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 abortion
- Thirty-three states' laws on requiring counseling before an abortion
- Twenty-eight states' laws requiring a waiting period before an abortion, and
- Sixteen states' laws concerning ultrasounds before an abortion
The passage of FOCA would not only force the issue of taxpayer funded abortions on both the federal and state governments, but would also overturn the wishes of all 50 state legislatures and millions of people in the states. Many of these laws are hugely popular. For example, Florida's 1994 amendment requiring parental notification was approved in a referendum with 65 percent of the vote. In an October 2007 Harris poll, 38 percent of the respondents wanted no change in current abortion laws, while 42 percent wanted to see laws that made it tougher for a woman to get an abortion. Only 16 percent of respondents wanted the government to make it easier for a woman to get an abortion.
The abortion industry already handsomely rewards its supporters in Congress with millions of dollars in campaign donations. In return, enactment of the Freedom of Choice Act by a pro-abortion Congress (which we currently have) and a pro-abortion President would lead to the biggest payoff in history for those who profit from abortions. All of this would come at taxpayer expense, with the federal and state governments losing the power to decide which legislative path they wish to pursue-one of promoting abortion or promoting life. Ironically, the Freedom of Choice Act would remove any concept of "choice" from the equation, by eliminating the right of states and U.S. citizens to have a say in the debate.
Tom McClusky is Vice President of Government Affairs for Family Research Council. All state law information in the addendum was compiled by Laura Myers, Government Affairs Researcher for Family Research Council.
 "Freedom of Choice Act Would Guarantee Roe Protections in U.S. Statutes." < http://www.now.org/issues/abortion/070430foca.html>.
 "Support the Freedom of Choice Act." <http://www.plannedparenthood.org/issues-action/abortion/freedom-of-choice-act/articles/support-foca-14393.htm>.
 "One Day after Supreme Court Sides with Bush, Pro-Choice Leaders Take Action to Protect a Woman's Right to Choose" <http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/news/press-releases/2007/pr04192007_foca.html>.
 "(A)n abortion in which a physician deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living, unborn child's body until either the entire baby's head is outside the body of the mother, or any part of the baby's trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother and only the head remains inside the womb, for the purpose of performing an overt act (usually the puncturing of the back of the child's skull and removing the baby's brains) that the person knows will kill the partially delivered infant, performs this act, and then completes delivery of the dead infant" - Page 117 STAT. 1201. Public Law 108-105.
 "Barack Obama Addresses Planned Parenthood." < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUl99id2SvM>.
 Burke, Denise. "The Freedom of Choice Act: Endangering Women and Silencing the Voices of Everyday Americans." Americans United for Life. < http://www.aul.org/FOCA >.
 "Abortion in Maryland Fact Sheet." Maryland Right to Life. < http://www.mdrtl.org/Abortion.aspx>.
 "State Facts about Abortion: Maryland ." Guttmacher Institute. < http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/sfaa/maryland.html >.
 "The Harris Poll." Poll. October, 2007 < http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm>.