The Diocese of Little Rock is joining a nationwide postcard campaign to let Arkansas' federal representatives and senators know that thousands of Catholics are against the passage of the Freedom of Choice Act and other pro-choice legislation.
Marianne Linane, diocesan respect life director, is coordinating the campaign, sponsored by the U.S. bishops' National Commit tee for a Human Life Amendment, in Arkansas. Her office is distributing 100,000 three-piece postcard sets in English and Spanish to the parishes this week. All parishes are encouraged to pass out the cards during or after Mass Jan. 24-25.
Parishioners are asked to fill in the name of their representative and the state's two senators and write in their name and address. The parishes have been asked to collect the signed cards and mail them individually to each elected official.
Linane is also suggesting that each parishioner donates at least 81 cents to their parish to buy stamps.
"They don't want people to leave with them after church because the likelihood will be that it won't get mailed," Linane said.
Because the campaign is not specifically Catholic, parishes can also distribute the postcards to other pro-life groups, Linane said.
When the United States had a Democratic president and Congress in 1993, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment conducted a similar postcard campaign, which was successful, Linane said.
"It was specifically about FOCA. That was the last time there was a FOCA threat ... Obama has promised that one of his first things was to sign FOCA into law," Linane said. "The leaders have vowed to bring it up and they are pro-abortion."
If FOCA is approved, Linane said it would "codify into law the spurious 'right' to an abortion and wipe out whatever modest restraints the pro-life movement has been able to effect at this time." The U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities has called FOCA the "most radical abortion legislation in U.S. history."
Linane said she hopes each Catholic will fill out the cards so that thousands of cards will flood the offices of Sens. Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln and Reps. Marion Berry, John Boozman, Vic Snyder and Mike Ross.
"They want Congress and our leaders to know that this (FOCA legislation) is not the will of a whole lot of people," she said.
An e-mail circulating among Catholics about the introduction of the FOCA legislation is concerning to Marianne Linane, diocesan respect life director.
The anonymous e-mail begins, "If you are opposed to abortion, then there is bad news on the horizon. For those of you who do not know, the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is set to be signed if Congress passes it on January 21-22 of 2009."
"It is a lot of fear-mongering," Linane said. "It doesn't serve us well to be spreading these around. Hopefully it doesn't come to pass. ... It doesn't serve a good purpose to overreact. It's all over the Internet in pro-life circles."
The e-mail goes on to list five results if FOCA is signed by President Barack Obama and asks readers to begin fasting and praying a novena Jan. 11 for nine days before the vote. It also instructs readers to pass the e-mail on to five people.
Through other pro-life contacts, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Office of Pro-Life Activities, has also seen the e-mail and sent his analysis of it to Linane and other diocesan directors.
Saying the e-mail was "misleading," Doerflinger unequivocally wrote, "There is no possibility of FOCA being passed this month."
In Obama's first two days in office, he could not sign an executive order making FOCA law, Doerflinger said.
"There may or may not be presidential orders in the first few days of the administration to reverse President Bush's policies on stem-cell research, Mexico City Policy and maybe other things. But FOCA is not a matter of executive authority," he said.
Doerflinger also takes aim at the e-mail writer's assertions that all Catholic hospitals would be forced to close and the government would start forcing certain women to get abortions.
Doerflinger said that FOCA could not force hospitals to close. Catholic hospitals would only likely close if FOCA required hospitals to perform abortions in order to receive federal money.
"Kicking the hospitals out of Medicaid, Medicare and other government programs because they can't provide 'nondiscriminatory' care would close them as surely as a bomb would," he said.
The e-mail also says, "Perhaps most importantly the government will now have control in the issue of abortion. This could result in a future amendment 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."
Doerflinger's response was: "FOCA itself is expressed throughout in terms of the woman's freedom of choice over pregnancy, birth and abortion, so such a pro-coercion amendment would have to say the exact opposite of what the text of the bill now says."
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