Faith-Based Hospitals Could Close If Obama Signs Freedom of Choice Act

( – Now that Barack Obama has been elected president, pro-life and pro-abortion groups are waiting to see if he will keep his campaign promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) into law and if faith-based hospitals and health care facilities will be forced to perform abortions or risk losing federal funding – a loss that could result in some health care providers closing their doors.

“Well, the first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” Obama said at a July 17, 2007 meeting of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “That’s the first thing I’d do.”

The legislation, which would legalize abortion-on-demand in all 50 states and U.S. territories, says that “this act applies to every Federal, State and local statute, ordinance, regulations, administrative order, decision, policy, practice, or other action enacted, adopted or implemented before, on, or after the date of enactment of this act.”

And it prohibits interference with reproductive health services, including abortion and "in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services and information."

Denise Burke, vice president and legal director for Americans United for Life, told that FOCA would tie the hands of faith-based hospitals and other pro-life health care providers.

The FOCA is “designed to stop any impediments to a woman being able to get an abortion at any time during her pregnancy,” Burke said. “Catholic hospitals or individual doctors who refuse to perform abortions are an impediment, especially as the other side sees it, to low-income women.”

Because almost all Catholic and other faith-based hospitals and health care providers depend on federal funding, the “provision of benefits” reference in the FOCA would mean these hospitals would have to either provide abortions or lose that funding, Burke said.

At the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops earlier this month in Baltimore, Cardinal Francis George, president of the conference, spoke out against the FOCA.

“In the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced that would, if brought forward in the same form today, outlaw any ‘interference’ in providing abortion at will,” George said in his official statement from the conference.

“It would deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry. FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars,” he said.

“It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government and others of good will to reduce the number of abortions in our country,” he added.

“FOCA would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children,” George said. “It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities. It would be an evil law that would further divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil.”

Pro-abortion groups, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, have lauded FOCA as legislation that would protect Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the United States.

“If passed, FOCA would establish a federal law guaranteeing reproductive freedom for future generations of American women,” NARAL said in a statement supporting FOCA after it was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y) in 2006.

“FOCA would ensure that women’s rights would remain intact, even if President Bush, Congress, and the courts are successful in reversing Roe v. Wade or imposing even more restrictions on our right to choose,” it said.

According to Catholic Heath Care of the United States, as of January 2008, 614 Catholic hospitals were operating in the United States.

"In practical terms, this (FOCA) would mean the closure of every Catholic hospital in the nation," Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, told Life "No bishop is going to stand by and allow the federal government to dictate what medical procedures must be performed in Catholic hospitals.

"Make no mistake about it, the bishops would shut down Catholic hospitals before acquiescing in the intentional killing of an innocent child. Were this to happen, it would not only cripple the poor, it would cripple the Obama administration."