President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As a Catholic, as an American, a person with a disability, and as a human being, I must register my profound and unflinching opposition to the egregiously misnamed “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA) which has been proposed in Congress and which would in effect make the principle of abortion on demand at any time for any reason the law of the land in the United States. You are on record assuring an audience of Planned Parenthood members and supporters that FOCA would be one of the first pieces of legislation you would sign and that you “will not yield” in your support of this legislation. As I understand it, the legislation as it stands would:
- eliminate any restrictions on abortion including restrictions on late-term abortions, waiting periods before abortions, and parental notification and consent provisions when minor children request abortions—even when polls have consistently shown that the majority of voters support these restrictions as reasonable;
- prevent states or municipalities from passing any laws or ordinances prohibiting or restricting access to abortion within their borders, despite the will of their citizens clearly and legally expressed through such means as votes by state legislatures, ballot initiatives, or referendums;
- and prohibit doctors and hospitals that object to abortion on moral or religious grounds from refusing to perform abortions without risking the loss of government funds or medical licenses.
Mr. President, in your inaugural address, you quoted the father of our country, George Washington, as he attempted to rally the Continental Army during the darkest days of the American Revolution. May I remind you, sir, that at the very beginning of that titanic struggle, the founders of our nation declared:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Mr. President, I submit it is no accident that the founders enumerated the first unalienable right as the right to life. The right to life is the fundamental human right. Without that, all other human rights are meaningless. The founders were also wise enough to see that the right to life is not granted by the power of the state, nor the authority of the government, but by the will of Almighty God. If a right granted by God, it ought not be taken away by human beings without the most profound consideration and reflection and except in the very gravest of circumstances. For this reason, the Catholic Church has been most forthright in its opposition to both capital punishment and to unjust or unnecessary war when peaceful means exist to resolve disputes between nations. Surely, Mr. President, you would agree with Catholic teaching in these latter cases. I earnestly entreat you to consider making your position more amenable to Catholic teaching on the issue of abortion.
Mr. President, the provisions now proposed, whether in FOCA as a whole or enacted piecemeal through other legislation, will trample on the fundamental right to life for millions of unborn Americans, the most innocent, vulnerable, and defenseless among us, children in the womb. Some may argue that a fetus in the womb is not, in any biological, legal, or moral sense a person with rights that must be respected under law. But surely you sir, as an African-American, know that similar arguments were once used to deny African-Americans their fundamental rights of life and liberty? Let us not go back to such dark days and such specious reasoning. If a fetus in the womb is denied its fundamental rights to life and liberty, it will never even have the opportunity to develop into a being that would be universally recognized as a human person. Thus, a unique and irreplaceable human life would be lost. Mr. President, if we have the power to prevent such a tragedy, let us do so. I implore you to reconsider your support for this legislation.
Not only will this legislation trample on the rights to life and liberty of the unborn themselves; it will trample on the rights of liberty of conscience, both for institutions such as hospitals supported by religious organizations and for individual doctors, nurses, and other health care providers who refuse to provide, participate in, or enable abortions for moral or religious reasons. Just as the right to life is the first unalienable and divinely granted human right, the right to practice one’s religion in accord with the dictates of one’s conscience is among the very first liberties guaranteed Americans by the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
Finally, not only would this legislation run roughshod over fundamental human rights of life and liberty, but it would also make a mockery of American principles of federalism and representative government. If the will of the people in a specific locality regarding something so fundamental as the protection of human life can always and everywhere be overridden by a federal mandate, than we as a nation have gone a very long way towards surrendering our essential liberties.
In short, Mr. President, I believe this legislation and its provisions, whether enacted in whole or in part, constitute nothing less than a direct and deliberate assault on fundamental human rights to life, liberty of conscience, and representative government, and I will do everything in my power to oppose them. In my view, FOCA would be profoundly destructive of the ends of good government enumerated by the founders, and I fully intend to utilize my rights as an American to lawfully alter or abolish the government that pursues such destructive and evil policies. Destroying the lives of the innocent can never be justified as health care, and ignoring the conscience and will of the people can never be defended as good public policy.
Neil R. Leslie