Prayers Answered on FOCA?

kmiecI’m seeing and hearing a small surge against FOCA. A few prayers at daily Mass this week, one or two things on the internet about it, too. For a bill that was inert under the Clinton Administration, it’s getting lots of notice. A number of commentators are stirring up worry over one mention by a presidential candidate, but the conventional wisdom seems to be that the bill’s dead as a doornail.

If FOCA gets no traction with Congress CXI and President XLIV (or is it XLIII?), how do we interpret that? President Obama and the Congressional Democrats aren’t really Minions of the Culture of Death and we can support them as much as we can stomach? Only worrying about the blogoconservatasphere? Or that our prayers were answered and politicians had nothing to do with God’s intervention?

Rest assured that the Traitor Kmiec will be on the outs no matter what happens. No ambassadorship to the Vatican because God didn’t listen to his prayers. Or something like that.

Anybody reading what the conservative Catholics are saying about this fine pro-life Republican? Has the term “whiner” come up yet? Anybody commenting that Commonweal published this essay?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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20 Responses to Prayers Answered on FOCA?

  1. Matt Byerly says:

    I hope FOCA is DOA, but we must never trust now or in the future that it somehow could
    not become law. Second, there are lesser laws that could someway be no different than FOCA, so I say “NO” , a dem rejections of FOCA would not mean they are not the minions of death; just that we could expect a different diabolical approach from some of them.

  2. Jim McK says:

    For years I have heard pro-life people complain that the Supreme Court short circuited public discussion on abortion. There was no chance for the issue to be considered and weighed from different angles by different groups and individuals.

    And now, when that opportunity is being offered, pro-life people want to prevent any discussion? I don’t understand. The legislative process allows representatives of many viewpoints to express their views and forge a consensus. FOCA is not going to pass without some kind of consensus — unless one side becomes adamant, refuses to participate and they are left out.

    Maybe it makes sense, and is even the right thing to do. I just cannot see it.

  3. FRS says:

    While there is reason for concern, it is highly unlikely that FOCA will ever see the light of day.

    A woman came into my office the other day – I do work in a church related function. She wanted me to have a copy of a novena for life that is to coincide with the Roe v. Wade anniversary on 1/22.

    She went on to say that President-elect Obama would be “signing FOCA into law on that day.”

    I tried to retain my calm and did… I said to her that it was not even on the floor, let alone passed and that it was highly unlikely that it would ever pass and even more unlikely to pass by 1/22.

    She quickly admonished me that it would be signed into law.

    *Deep sigh*

    This is a college educated woman of about 45. It scares me that she understands so little about how government works.

    The commenter above speaks wisdom – there must at least be participation and discussion.

    Instead there seems to be hysteria and silence and little else.

  4. John Heavrin says:

    What makes you guys think that Obama (and an overwhelmingly pro-choice Congress) will be able to withstand the enormous pressure that will be brought to bear on him (and an overwhelmingly pro-choice Congress) by the NARALs, NOWs, and Planned Parenthoods, et. al., of the world to keep the promise he made and sign FOCA? They’re at least as determined to see FOCA become law as its opponents are to prevent it, and something tells me they have vastly more influence with Obama than his pro-life supporters (tempted to use the phrase Useful Idiots here) do. I’m guessing they won’t be as dismissive of his promise to do this as you guys are, and that they won’t accept “Hey, there’s no will in the Congress to pass it” for an answer. It won’t be this week, but I fully expect Obama to deliver on his promise to sign FOCA and before too long. Why would his pro-choice supporters, who passionately support FOCA, let him, or the heavily pro-Choice congress, weasel out of delivering on it?

    Direct and explicit promises such as Obama made to sign FOCA into law are rare indeed on the presidential campaign trail. Obama’s as good as they get at saying a lot but directly promising little. Why would he make such a direct and explicit promise if he didn’t intend to deliver on it?

    I expect President Obama to be a great friend of abortion, because, apparently unlike his Catholic supporters, I take him at his word.

  5. Liam says:

    Well, FOCA would have to have enough votes in the Senate to invoke cloture – which it doesn’t have by any stretch. It’s not happening in this Congress.

  6. Gavin says:

    I expect President Obama to be a great friend of abortion, because, apparently unlike his Catholic supporters, I take him at his word.

    Why? He hasn’t even taken office and he’s going back on most of his campaign promises. You apparently esteem him much more than I do. Maybe you should have voted for such an upstanding man of character…

    As the good Father Fox has pointed out, the congress which passes FOCA will be the last democrat-controlled congress. There may be a majority of pro-choice senators now (I don’t know the numbers), but I doubt there’s a majority who are gung-ho on abortion enough to vote for FOCA, or represent liberal enough constituencies. Both parties love power more than they love principles, FOCA will not happen in this country any time soon.

    Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t fight it! BUT the point is that we shouldn’t be afraid that failure is guaranteed. Keep the pressure on your representatives to represent the people and not the special interests.

  7. Todd says:

    One day and no FOCA. Cry wolf!

  8. Lee says:

    FOCA is just one of the concerns – and one that would require congressional action (which I did not think would happen immediately anyway).

    Rather than just being whining, the criticisms and dire warnings are actually a way to let Congress know this would be controversial, lead to a fight, and thus make it less likely they would actually try to pass it. A tactical maneuver by pro-lifers.

    Of greater concern are the other actions Obama might take. The changes in the White House website immediately after he was sworn in give us some indications where he will lead in terms of abortion, embryonic stem cells, contraception and more. There are battles in the offing.

  9. Lee says:

    A further thought (showers are a good place to mull over what one has just written).

    FOCA, even if it did not have a realistic chance of getting through, provides a handy rallying cry for pro-lifers – a way to stir up people who might be more silent or even despondant. I’ve already seen greater energy in the local pro-life community. If FOCA is “defeated,” then it is useful as a way to keep spirits up – see, we can win. A victory can help people face the defeats we will likely face (international funding for abortion, for example, or funding for embryonic stem-cell research) and to keep energy up for fights we have a chance of winning (possible attempts to force Catholic hospitals and medical personnel to dispence birth control, for example, or the targetting of pro-life pregnancy centers – which actually did happen here in snowy New York when “John” Spitzer was AG).

    Silent pro-life and Catholic communities might embolden the pro-choice crowd to think they can get away with more. Making our voices heard – even if it does sound like whining – will likely make them think twice on some of the things they would like to do.

    Of course, the pro-abortion crowd might just then fall back on their old tactic of lying. But we’re used to that.

  10. John Heavrin says:

    Not to seem rude or insistent, but I began my comment with a question, which none of you have even addressed. Anybody care to re-read it and try to answer it?

    FOCA’s supporters have a lot more leverage with Obama than its foes do. At some point soon, not today, Todd, not this week, maybe not even next month, but soon, they’ll remind him of one of the few explicit promises he made. To FOCA’s supporters, his promise wasn’t a throwaway line.

    Liam, perhaps you’re a mind-reader, or perhaps you’ve whipped the Senate cloakroom, but once Franken is seated, there will be 59 Democrats in the Senate. And this is not an old-fashioned Democratic majority, with half the members being Southern Democrats who are more conservative than the Republicans. Those days are over. Here’s my hunch: there aren’t 35 genuine pro-life votes in the Senate, and if Obama wants FOCA, there won’t be a sustainable filibuster.

    FOCA is something he can deliver for his supporters if he wants to, and taking him at his own word, he wants to, and has pledged to.

    Here’s what I think will happen: the paradigm-changing and nearly intractable problems we have in the national and world economy won’t go away anytime soon, regardless of Obama’s efforts; also, I think he’ll be a lot less likely to change much of Bush’s foreign policy approach anytime soon than his supporters are assuming he will. If those two big things don’t change much, and his supporters start to get restless and aren’t seeing much Change, things like FOCA, the repeal of the Hyde Amendment (the only thing preventing funding for abortion through Medicaid), the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the removal of any restrictions on stem-cell research will be things he can actually deliver. Sure, there’ll be some sound and fury, but since there are no other “successes” he can deliver to his supporters right away, why wouldn’t he deliver these? Nothing to stop him, and much to spur him on.

    I think that some of you are in denial about what this man stands for, what he believes, and what he’s determined to do, not to mention the sweeping nature of the victory that he and the Democrats have won. There’s nothing to stop him from doing these things, and enormous pressure will be brought to bear on him to deliver.

    I’m trying to see why he would give a damn about what pro-lifers think. They opposed him bitterly and he won anyway.

    No, it won’t happen today or tomorrow; but it’s short-sighted in the extreme to start the “I told you so” Todd. This man is an unapologetic friend of abortion, doesn’t even pretend otherwise.

    Why are his Catholic supporters pretending otherwise, I wonder?

  11. Todd says:

    “What makes you guys think that Obama will be able to withstand the enormous pressure that will be brought to bear on him by the NARALs, NOWs, and Planned Parenthoods, et. al., of the world to keep the promise he made and sign FOCA?”

    Answering the question is fair enough.

    First, I think the question is flawed. Because the pro-life movement is where they are, you presume. John, like many conservatives, that your opposition thinks like you do. Pro-choicers that operate in fear are in a minority: people who have been scared by bedtime stories and PP nurses who dread the Solomon’s baby of a girl impregnated by a man.

    Second, if Bill Clinton managed it, with far, far less of importance on his plate, I think the Congress will give President Obama enough cover, whether they intend to directly do so or not.

    That the question comes up at all shows that the pro-life leadership is concerned about losing its faithful. They should be. They hitched their political wagons to a single party and there’s danger the wagons are now circling the drains. Now they dredge up a YouTube moment and play Karl Rove.

    If FOCA never comes up, a good number of Catholics are going think one of the following:
    – They duped me again, those bishops. FOCA was never a serious consideration and the prelates are idiots.
    – Obama’s not such a bad guy after all; he reneged on a campaign promise to the pro-aborts.
    – Our prayers were answered.

    Two-thirds of these answers are not what the national pro-life leaders want to hear. They seem invested with FOCA coming into prominence (despite Bill Clinton and the D’s burying it at the end of the last century) and somehow turning the moment into some legal Lepanto.

    Abortion on demand is the law of the land. Its opponents will generally be angrier, given their treatment of traitors, not thinking this issue through coolly and slyly.

    Day 1 saw some action on Gitmo, none on FOCA. It’s a “miracle.” Draw your own conclusions.

  12. Liam says:


    You don’t need 35 genuine pro-life votes to sustain a filibuster on FOCA. You need 41 non-extreme pro-choice voices – there are plenty of centrists who would not vote for FOCA.

    The melodrama on FOCA is indeed that – melodrama.

  13. Lee says:

    Liam – I think you missed my point.

    Melodrama? Okay. Whatever it takes to get people thinking about the issue and voicing their opinions.

  14. Liam says:

    Well, that’s rather utilitarian, isn’t it?

    The point I was responding to was your erroneous supposition that the only people who would not vote for FOCA would be genuine pro-lifers. When in point of fact, it would not only be those people but also compromiser-types who are not hardcore pro-choicers or who come from states where the electoral majority would not support FOCA.

    Remember, the Senate Majority Leader is himself not a hardcore prochoicer by any stretch (he’s considered anti-choice by the hardcore prochoicers). And there are other Democrats like that.

  15. Lee says:

    “The point I was responding to was your erroneous supposition that the only people who would not vote for FOCA would be genuine pro-lifers. When in point of fact, it would not only be those people but also compromiser-types who are not hardcore pro-choicers or who come from states where the electoral majority would not support FOCA.”

    Liam – That wasn’t my supposition. My supposition was that if there is enough outcry against it people on the fence and even some pro-choicers worried about reelection would not support it.

    I used to be political reporter. I know how these things work.

  16. John Heavrin says:

    Todd, your response is a little hard to follow, but I think your answer is: Obama will be able to withstand the pressure to make FOCA the law of the land because…there won’t be any pressure forthcoming? If that’s your answer, I just disagree with it.

    Also, not really understanding your continuing references to Clinton. FOCA was first introduced 20 years ago, but for all but two of those twenty years, we’ve had either a Republican president or a Republican congress, so for all but those two years, FOCA was indeed a dead letter. Now, it isn’t, at least not automatically, because there is strongly pro-choice president and a large Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. To try to give Clinton some kind of credit, as you seem to be doing, is a little odd, given the political math during his presidency. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding your points about Clinton and I’m failing to see any relevance of his situation to the current one.

    Liam, I hope you’re right about the Senate, but I doubt it. Frankly, you can’t discount the pro-choice Republicans, several of which are openly pro-choice, and a few others who are closeted but now with a new atmosphere in D.C. will probably feel free to vote pro-choice.

    Finally, Todd, I think you make some good points about the desperation and paranoia on the part of pro-life leadership. They have been devastated, as has the Republican Party. No question about it. I think that’s why the pro-choice side will try to press the advantage of their numbers right now and get all that they can right now. I’m reading you as thinking that these groups are going to somehow relax now, in confidence and generosity and reason that they don’t need FOCA, etc. I don’t see it that way, and I also think Obama will have a hard time putting them off, even if he wants do, which I personally doubt.

    The Reagan era is over, and one of the pillars of that era was a conservative bias on social issues. I hope there are still enough Senators afraid of going afoul of pro-life constituents or of the Church, but I doubt it. I think we’re seeing a huge backlash against the overall concept underpinning anti-abortion legislation and FOCA will enshrine that.

    I would also add that, even if Liam is right and prudence will continue to keep FOCA on the shelf, that Obama will by executive order put in place most of what FOCA would establish anyway, without the big fight.

    In all honesty before God, I hope I’m wrong and that somehow we can make progress on the pro-life front, both in reducing abortions themselves and also in eroding and eventually ending the legality of abortion–because if there is no right to be born, all other rights are contingent fictions as well.

    Perhaps the number of abortions will come down as contraception is aggressively pushed. If the Hyde Amendment goes, though, affordability won’t be a bar to abortion, and I can’t see how that won’t result in an increase.

    Again, I hope I’m wrong and that you guys are right and FOCA never sees the light of day. I think it’s time has come, though, and its adherents will press the issue. Oremus.

  17. Jim McK says:

    Currently Freedom of Choice is the law of the land, based on the Supreme Court’s reading of the Constitution in Roe v Wade. Implementation of this is, and will continue to be, in the hands of the court.

    Congress has a role to play in setting guidelines for how Freedom of Choice is implemented. When the discussion is opened on that topic, hardline opposition should not be silent. Their contributions could shape how choice is regulated. It is not unheard of for a bill to outgrow its original intent, even lose the support of some who introduced it. Building a sufficient consensus is tricky.

    Opposition to federal regulation of Freedom of Choice leaves regulation in the hands of the courts and the states. If that is your concern, then say so. If you think it is impossible for your position to affect legislation, you might want to rethink your position. But if you want to influence federal legislation on Freedom of Choice, ie federal regulation of abortion, the FOCA is your opportunity to speak.

  18. Pingback: FOCA Watch: AWOL in the Queue « Catholic Sensibility

  19. Phil says:

    Too much talk of politics, not enough talk about God. Try this newsflash from Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, President, Human Life International

    Pro-Life Dos and Don’ts for 2009

    Dear Friends of Life,

    The pro-life movement is going through a great deal of self-examination at this time. I am not a pessimist, but my sense of realism tells me that the election of extreme abortion advocate, Barack Obama, and the nearly 7,000 political appointments of his administration will usher in a new decade of war on decency and the sanctity of life. Despite the ferocious optimism of his inauguration, the dark clouds of the culture of death are gathering over Washington as we speak, ready to cast their darkness everywhere.

    In this time of preparation for the upcoming total war on life, I offer this modest list of Dos and Don’ts for the generous and valiant pro-lifers who gather for the March for Life in Washington, DC on January 22nd. May all men and women of good will take these recommendations to heart for a fruitful pro-life 2009!


    1. Above all, do not grow despondent: there is much to fear for the situation of life around the world, but we are not permitted by our Christian faith to give up our efforts or zeal for life. In fact, we need to redouble it!

    2. Do not become absorbed in the quest for a political solution to abortion: after 36 years of working for a political solution to abortion, we may soon see the wiping out of most, if not all, of the pro-life movement’s gains with the stroke of a pen. Politics has failed. Or rather, we have failed at politics. Either way, politics now offers us little chance of anything other than just trying to slow the massive momentum of the culture of death.

    3. Do not waste any more energy on overturning Roe: two Supreme Court seats are assured during an Obama administration, and they will undoubtedly be filled with extreme pro-abortion activist judges. A third appointment will leave us with no hope of overturning Roe in anyone’s lifetime reading this. For that matter, the chance that a good pro-life President will succeed Obama in four years and nullify the leftward lurch of the high court is, shall we say, unlikely. Let’s get hopes of undoing Roe out of our system and focus on more productive things.


    1. Pray every day for God to end abortion with our help (in that order): abortion is such a great spiritual and social evil that only the divine power of God Himself can end it. “The Lord hears the cry of the poor,” but God will not do it alone. He needs us to humbly recognize the basic fact that it is humanly impossible to end this evil. We need to get on our knees and beg His Mercy on the unborn and the conversion of all those who commit these evils.

    2. Commit to fasting every week to end the evils of abortion and contraception: “Some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting,” said the Lord, and we have to take that admonition seriously if we are to effect any change in the hearts of our people or of our society. Fasting makes us more spiritual and gives greater efficacy to all our works and prayers.

    3. Take back the culture: Even if the anti-lifers hold the reins of political power, we must not sit back and allow moral anarchists to define all the terms of the cultural or social agenda. Whether it is through social activism for life (crisis pregnancy centers, pickets and prayer marches) or through touching hearts and minds one soul at a time (persuasion, formation, teaching, media), we cannot be neutral about the direction our American culture is heading. It is leading us to certain spiritual death, and no one can afford that. We need to fight for it and never give up the battle.

    I promise you that Human Life International will be in the struggle for lives and souls continuously. It is our calling and mission. We will never give one inch to uphold the truth that the whole world needs to hear more than ever: namely, that human life is sacred from the first moment of natural fertilization to the moment of natural death – and we will defend it whether Obama likes it or not.

    Sincerely Yours in Christ,

    Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,
    President, Human Life International

  20. Todd says:

    An interesting letter, but I would have wished Fr Euteneuer would have been less political himself. Not much emphasis on the concrete ways one can get involved: Birthright, Project Rachel, and so on. This would be an example of old, tired thinking that will surely doom the pro-life effort to a whiny footnote.

    The American culture, and the West have always had problems with Death, be it the treatment of natives, the handling of the Great War, and government-sponsored torture. The notion that the US was in some form of theological nirvana prior to Obama, prior to Roe, prior to the 60’s is little more than a selling point for fundraisers.

    This is the human race, people: there have always been advocates for death.

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