In January 2009, email forwards about a Senate bill called “The Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA) circulated and spread virally, claiming that the legislation would establish the right to abortion as a fundamental right and urging recipients to sign a petition to thwart it.
One such email forward claimed:
The FOCA Act: The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is set to be signed if congress passes it on January 21-22 of 2009. If made a law, then all limitations on abortion which have been painstakingly built up by state legislatures one after another will be abolished which will result in the following:
1) All hospitals, including Catholic hospitals will be required to perform abortions upon request. If this happens Bishops vow to close down all Catholic hospitals, more then 30% of all hospitals in the United States .
2) Partial birth abortions would be legal and have no limitations.
3) All U.S. tax payers would be funding abortions.
4) Parental notification will no longer be required.
It is estimated that the number of abortions will increase by a minimum of 100,000 annually. Perhaps most importantly, the government will now have absolute control on the issue of abortion. This could result in future amendments that would force women by law to have abortions in certain situations (rape, down syndrome babies, etc) and could even regulate how many children women are allowed to have. The Culture of Death would have had a great triumph.
A corresponding online petition was created by an anti-abortion organization called Americans United For Life (AUL) and was posted at FightFOCA.com.
FightFOCA.com was no longer functional in September 2023, but a version archived in October 2008 was available via the Wayback Machine. Text on the page read:
Barack Obama is now the incoming President [as of October 2008].
And he made a promise to Planned Parenthood last year [in 2007] they expect him to keep.
The first thing I’d do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing I’d do.
The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would eliminate every restriction on abortion nationwide.
- FOCA will do away with state laws on parental involvement, on partial birth abortion, and on all other protections.
- FOCA will compel taxpayer funding of abortions.
- FOCA will force faith-based hospitals and healthcare facilities to perform abortions.
Barack Obama believes this legislation will “end the abortion wars.” To him, “ending the abortion wars” means eradicating every state and federal law on abortion — laws that the majority of Americans support.
According to the Library of Congress site, one version of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was sponsored by California Senator Barbara Boxer and introduced in the Senate on January 22, 2004. Sen. Boxer’s sponsorship of the bill represented one of four instances was put forward — in 1989, 1993, 2004, and 2007:
The bill was first introduced to the Congress in 1989 and again in 1993. It was reintroduced in 2004 in the 108th Congress, on January 21 in the House of Representatives and on January 22 in the Senate … The bills were referred to the Judiciary Committees of the respective Houses. Neither bill received further action in the 108th Congress. The bills were reintroduced on April 19 2007 in the 110th Congress (H.R. 1964/S. 1173), but, like their predecessors, were referred to committee without further action.
During his tenure in the United States Senate, Barack Obama co-sponsored the 2007 Senate version of the Freedom of Choice Act (S. 1173). Responding to a question regarding how he would preserve reproductive rights in a speech given to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund on July 17, 2007, Obama declared, “The first thing I’d do, as president, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing that I’d do.”
In 2007, former NARAL president Nancy Keenan addressed FOCA in a broader discussion of reproductive rights and access. Keenan said of the then-pending legislation:
There are some legal technicalities involved, but the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would effectively repeal the Federal Abortion Ban and other federal restrictions on abortion care, as well as codify the protections of Roe nationwide. That is why it is so very important to contact your members of Congress and ask them to support FOCA (202.224.3121)!
A Wikipedia entry about FOCA noted that it did not pass, and that the legislation took a backseat to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA):
Although Democrats controlled both the House and Senate during the 111th Congress, protecting abortion rights was not prioritized since six of the nine sitting Supreme Court Justices supported upholding Roe v. Wade. Instead, Democrats focused on passing the Affordable Care Act.
Keenan described FOCA as an attempt to “codify Roe v. Wade“; Roe vs. Wade was officially overturned by the Supreme Court in June 2022 despite majority support for abortion access among American voters of all political affiliations.