By Nadia Maria Smith

CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – The Archdiocese of Philadelphia will be joining other dioceses across the nation in the fight against the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), a bill that goes beyond the legalized abortion defined in Roe v. Wade by creating a “fundamental right” to legalized abortion and preventing local, state and federal governments from regulating it in any way.

In a Sept. 19 letter to Members of Congress, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, raised grave concerns about any possible consideration of FOCA.

“Despite its deceptive title, FOCA would deprive the American people in all 50 states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry,” and would “counteract any and all sincere efforts by government to reduce abortions in our country,” Cardinal Rigali said. “We can’t reduce abortions by promoting abortion.”

He urged all senators and representatives “to pledge their opposition to FOCA” and asks every pastor and all parishioners in joining him to do the same through the Fight FOCA Postcard Campaign that is being coordinated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities and the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA).

During Masses this weekend, parishioners will be asked to sign postcards addressed to their senators and Congressional representative urging them to oppose FOCA. Postcards will be collected and mailed by parish officials.

According to the NCHLA, anyone can sign a postcard, regardless of their age or if they are a registered voter or not, because anyone has the right to communicate with their elected official.

“President-elect Obama has a very pro-abortion platform and one of the things he has said is that he wants to see that this legislation passes,” said Susan Vadas, director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office.

That, coupled with the view that Congress may be more disposed than in recent years to pass the bill, “is why there is urgency that we do this now,” she added.

According to recent nationwide polling commissioned by the USCCB, only nine percent of U.S. adults support abortion for any reason throughout the nine months of pregnancy and “over a third (35 percent) of the small minority who said abortion should be legal for any reason throughout pregnancy nevertheless supported three or more of the six laws presented” in the survey that would regulate abortion, said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

In the survey, 95 percent favored laws ensuring that abortions be performed only by licensed physicians, which under FOCA would be unregulated; 88 percent favored informed consent laws which require abortion providers to inform women of potential risks to their physical and psychological health and offer information about alternatives to abortion, which FOCA would make illegal.

Also, 76 percent favored laws that protect doctors and nurses from being forced to perform or refer for abortions against their will, which FOCA would punish; 73 percent favored laws that require giving parents the chance to be involved in their minor daughter’s abortion decision, which FOCA would do away with; 68 percent favored laws against partial-birth abortion, a procedure that kills a child already partially delivered from the mother, which FOCA would legalize; and 63 percent favored laws preventing the use of taxpayer funds for abortions, which FOCA would require by law.

For that reason, the bishops believe the national postcard campaign will send a timely message to Congress that abortion advocates are out of step with mainstream America and that their agenda should not become a part of the nation’s laws in any way.

“We can’t underestimate the wide-sweeping changes that would be enforced through FOCA, and the seriousness of this bill cannot be underplayed,” Vadas said. “It would singlehandedly overturn over 30 years of legislation [regulating abortion]” nationwide that has reduced abortions to historic lows, “and it would open the door for an entitlement to abortion. The time to speak is now. We really need to act on this.”

For more information, visit or call Susan Vadas at 215-587-5661. call Susan Vadas at 215-587-5661.

CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at or (215) 965-4614.