Tuesday, January 13, 2009

If You Must Be Wrong, Do It Right

As an early Facebook adopter for whom adventures in student politics were an important early activity in the world of social networking, my news feed is regularly stocked with advertisements for whatever cause my contacts from those days are promoting today. Usually there are a great source of entertainment in the "awww, bless, they still think Venezuela is the Garden of Eden" sense, but occasionally one comes along that demands a response.

Tonight's example came courtesy of the event, "Prayer for the Sanctity of Life - against passage of FOCA Bill". For a moment I thought I'd missed an acronym somewhere between FOCA and SOCA, but the legislation involved is not British but American. It's also quite odd. The Freedom Of Choice Act argues that, since pregnant women can and do cross state lines to obtain abortions and since private healthcare providers in the United States engage in inter-state procurement of staff and supplies, provision of abortion is covered by the Commerce Clause and is thus subject only to Federal law. It then prohibits government interference in the exercise of a woman's reproductive rights and applies this prohibition to every law at every level ever passed.

You might imagine that such a broad reform (amounting as it does to the codification in Federal law of Roe v. Wade and the abolition of all state prohibitions on abortion) would have no chance, even in a Democrat-controlled congress. Indeed, FOCA was introduced in 2004 and 2007 and bottled up in committee both times. But there is one little wrinkle, and it is to be found in the list of co-sponsors of the bill;

Obama, Barack (IL)

What's more, when asked in 2007 how he would preserve reproductive rights, President-elect Obama could not have been more forthright;

"The first thing I'd do, as president, is sign the Freedom Of Choice Act. That's the first thing that I'd do."

And so FOCA is very much in play and the pro-life lobby is very afraid that, come January 21st, the bill will make its way down from Capitol Hill, through the post-Inauguration detritus, and under the nib of Barack's presidential pen, hence the Facebook event that led me to all this. It takes the form of an open letter to pro-life activists which claims that FOCA would remove all limitations on abortion in the United States and that this would lead to;
  • Catholic hospitals closing rather than be forced to perform abortion (FALSE - FOCA only requires that the government not prevent individuals from having any way to terminate, not that any government-funded healthcare provider must provide terminations)
  • Unlimited legal partial-birth abortions (FALSE - FOCA only protects the right to terminate unviable foetuses, except when the mother's health is at risk)
  • Banning of parental notification (FALSE - Well, okay, this one is a bit of a gray area, but I don't have any reason to believe this was a primary intent of the authors)
  • A minimum of 100,000 more abortions a year (FALSE - Hopefully I don't have to explain the utter stupidity of using the word minimum in this statement, as if the bill says 100,000 more abortions must be carried out)
Most incredibly, the letter claims that, because the bill puts the Federal government in charge of abortion, women may in future be forced to abort foetuses with Down's Syndrome or forced to abort if they have too many children (FALSE - What kind of "all government is inherently evil" Kool-Aid do you have to be drinking to be that paranoid?)

Well actually, I know exactly what kind of Kool-Aid you have to be drinking to be that paranoid, because the letter is signed by the person who's serving it.

David Alton

The moral question is one thing; David has every right to believe what he does now, just as he had every right to do so when he sat on our benches, and I would defend that right even though I fundamentally disagree with what he believes. But it is unconscionable for any parliamentarian, of whatever affiliation, to use their position to propagate such palpable untruths. As for the suggestion that democratically-elected parliaments are likely to order women to have abortions against their will, that flat out brings Parliament into disrepute, something for which Baron Alton should be subject to sanction by the house.

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