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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bishops Plan to Fight FOCA

The bishops made it clear at their annual fall meeting that they will fight FOCA (Freedom of Choice Act). And now a postcard campaign is in the works. I remember the bishops' 1994 postcard campaign urging Congress to keep abortion and contraception out of any universal health care plan. It was launched at a July press conference on Capitol Hill. Several hundred people attended including myself with my mom, my adult daughter, and my two-year-old granddaughter. A friend took a photo of our four generations of pro-life women to commemorate the event. At the time I was chairman of my parish's pro-life committee and coordinated the drive. It was an impressive effort with millions of cards delivered to the Hill. By all means let's do it again.

But I'd like to suggest something else to go with it that will impress Congress much more than a stack of postcards with a pre-printed message collecting dust in the corner of a congressional office, something that occurred about six months before the bishops' press conference and organized by a different group -- home schoolers. In February 1994 Congressman George Miller attached an amendment to HR 6, a reappropriatons bill for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It required teachers in full-time schools to be certified in the subject they were teaching. The amendment read:

"Each State applying for funds under this title shall provide the Secretary with the assurance that after July 1, 1998, it will require each local educational agency within the State to certify that each full time teacher in schools under the jurisdiction of the agency is certified to teach in the subject area to which he or she is assigned."

While the amendment said nothing about home schooling, it raised a red flag for lawyers at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Many local school administrators across the country consider private and home schools "under [their] jurisdiction" and the bill could be used to threaten home schoolers who obviously could not be certified in every subject, particularly at the high school level. HSLDA attempted to negotiate with Miller, but he wouldn't budge. Congressman Dick Armey introduced an amendment to specifically exclude home schools from the bill, but it was rejected by Democrats on a straight party line vote. Since Miller was a staunch advocate of the NEA (National Education Association) which strongly opposed home schooling, HR 6 looked like a backhanded way to regulate and limit home schoolers.

Telephone trees and home school associations across the country went into high gear. James Dobson, Rush Limbaugh, and other radio personalities helped expose the story. Over the next few days home schoolers generated over a million telephone calls to Capitol Hill, 20,000 to Representative Miller's office alone. They literally shut Congress down. There was certainly no business as usual and the lawmakers were shocked and overwhelmed at the reaction to what they presumed was an innocuous piece of legislation.

In the end, the objectionable amendment was defeated and Dick Armey's amendment carried in the House 374-53. [You can read more details about this exciting success story in Part VI section B of The Politics of Survival by Scott W. Somerville, Esq.]

If the bishops are really serious about stopping FOCA they need more than a postcard campaign. They must generate the same intense grassroots activity for the unborn that the home schoolers did for their own children. We know CINOs (Catholics in Name Only) are unlikely to support this effort. The unborn are invisible to them. But faithful Catholics, united with other pro-life Christian churches, orthodox Jews, pro-life Mormons, etc. can overwhelm the culture of death on Capitol Hill with a pro-life avalanche.

Let every bishop call a press conference to launch the "Call for Life" campaign. Let every parish priests preach on the value of each tiny baby, our littlest brothers and sisters, and urge their congregations to pick up the phones. Let ecumenical religious groups network together as "Christians and Jews united to stop FOCA."

Imagine if every voter at the March for Life on January 22nd pulled out his or her cell phone and called Congress saying "Stop FOCA."

Discouragement is not an option. Despite the election of a radically pro-abortion President and the most pro-abortion legislature in history we are a people of God with faith in the power of the Holy Spirit. By the grace of God through the intercession of Our Lady we can restore our country. Let it begin with the "Call for Life Campaign."

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