The President-elect appears to have stepped back from some of his campaign promises. That merely is speculation. We shall see. The President-elect did make a dogmatic statement regarding the so-called "Freedom of Choice" Act (FOCA). He said he will propose FOCA, which would eliminate all State and Federal restrictions upon abortion. It would purport to force Christian hospitals to perform abortions or close. It would demand that physicians perform abortions or give up their practice.
Whatever happened to freedom of conscience? A hallmark of professionalism in the United States has been that we never force anyone to violate his or her conscience in the performance of a duty. That is the first line of defense of the pro-life movement. Even more than the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited funding by the Federal Government of many abortions, the idea of freedom of conscience unites all parties in the pro-life movement, which has made progress since the passage of the Hyde Amendment. There hardly has been a Congress which made no progress on the right-to-life issue. And when progress was stymied at the Federal level, many restrictions were enacted at the State level. Most were tested in the Federal courts and were held to be constitutional.
It is inconceivable to me that a majority in Congress can't agree upon freedom of conscience. Counting the votes, I doubt that there are enough pro-lifers in Congress to maintain the restrictions previously passed by Congress. However, even honest liberals would favor allowing a physician to practice medicine consistent with his or her life-saving principles of conscience. Most Republicans, as well as many Democrats, ran as pro-lifers in the 2008 election. This fundamental issue may become the first test of their commitment to life. If we force hospitals and physicians to perform abortions against their beliefs, in other words in violation of their conscience, then we will be on a downward spiral from which there may be no return.
This will be a test, America. God help all of us.
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