Time’s Amy Sullivan Misrepresents FOCA Battle, Obama's Abortion Support

Amy Sullivan, Time Magazine Senior Editor | NewsBusters.orgAmy Sullivan’s article on Time.com on Thursday, “The Catholic Crusade Against a Mythical Abortion Bill,” tried to downplay President Obama’s past and current support for abortion, and tried to use a technicality to “prove” that there is no chance of passage for the staunchly pro-abortion Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA): “...FOCA has also provided ammunition for those on the right who want to paint Obama as ‘the most pro-abortion president ever.’ It’s been less than a month since he took office, but so far the President has given social conservatives little evidence to back up that charge. He did repeal the Mexico City policy banning federal funds to foreign family planning organizations that provide abortion referrals or services — but so did Bill Clinton.” In reality, the Obama adminstration’s record on the issue consists of much more than merely support for legislative proposals and signing executive orders.

Sullivan first described how “[t]he U.S. Catholic Church’s crusade against the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) has all the hallmarks of a well-oiled lobbying campaign,” underlining that Catholic bishops and other Catholic leaders have made the bill a priority. She then tried to demonstrate the apparent foolishness of the campaign:

There is only one hitch. Congress isn’t about to pass the Freedom of Choice Act because no such bill has been introduced.

At a time when the United States is gripped by economic uncertainty and faces serious challenges in hot spots around the globe, some American Catholics are finding it both curious and troubling that their church has launched a major campaign against a piece of legislation that doesn’t exist and wouldn't have much chance of becoming law even if it did. To many critics, it feels like the legislative equivalent of the the Dog That Didn't Bark.

The senior editor took this one step further with a post on Time.com’s “Swampland” blog flippantly titled “Save Your Stamps, Catholics.” She linked to her “Mythical Abortion Bill” article and wrote, “On Time.com today: The U.S. Catholic Church’s all-out war against an abortion bill that doesn’t exist and wouldn’t pass even if it did. Or, Why I Don’t Want to Hear Another Word About FOCA.”  Within the past year, Sullivan wrote a book devoted to the “How and Why Democrats are Closing the God Gap,” and tried to convince her readers that President Obama might be “pro-life,” so this “well-oiled lobbying campaign” by Catholic groups might pose a threat to the impression she is trying to give, that Obama and the Democrats are “closing the God gap” with religious groups.

After describing the efforts that have been taken by various Catholic groups against FOCA, including the postcard campaign she was knocking with the above blog post, Sullivan repeated her initial point: “In the midst of all this activity, the fact that there was no Freedom of Choice Act before the 111th Congress went largely unnoticed and unmentioned. A Freedom of Choice Act was first introduced in the 108th and 110th Congresses (from ‘03 to ‘05 and ‘07 to ‘09, respectively), by Rep. Jerold Nadler, a New York Democrat....But FOCA had a hard time gaining traction — even under Democratic control of Congress, the bill was not only never voted on but never made it out of committee.”

While it is true that FOCA has not been reintroduced, Sullivan later admitted that it is still in the back of the minds of pro-abortion forces in Congress: “A spokesman for [Congressman] Nadler says that while he expects the legislation will be reintroduced, ‘it won't be anytime soon.’” So which is it Amy?

Sullivan also took the time to cast doubt on the possible consequences that Catholic medical institutions would suffer if FOCA passed: “Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, told the news agency [CNS, the Catholic News Service] that the legislation ‘has never contained anything that would force Catholic hospitals or Catholic personnel to do abortions or to participate in them.’” However, Cardinal Francis George, the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (a higher authority than Sister Keehan), issued a statement days after President Obama’s election which warned that FOCA “would have... [a] destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children. It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities.”

Earlier in the article, the Time senior editor, after admitting that “[i]n some respects, President Obama only has himself to blame for the current controversy” due to his explicit past approval of FOCA, tried portray Obama and his administration as having a more nuanced position on abortion: “FOCA has also provided ammunition for those on the right who want to paint Obama as ‘the most pro-abortion president ever.’ It’s been less than a month since he took office, but so far the President has given social conservatives little evidence to back up that charge. He did repeal the Mexico City policy banning federal funds to foreign family planning organizations that provide abortion referrals or services — but so did Bill Clinton. At the same time, Obama has directed his Presidential Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to make the issue of abortion reduction one of its top priorities.”

What Sullivan fails to mention is that outside of these two areas, President Obama has chosen radical pro-abortion leaders to fill positions in his adminstration. Ellen Moran, the new White House communications director, was previously the executive director of EMILY’s List political action committee, whose expressed aim is “electing pro-choice Democratic women to office.” The president has also nominated David Ogden to be deputy attorney general. Ogden wrote an amicus brief in the Casey v. Planned Parenthood case, decided by the Supreme Court in 1987, which argued against parental notification laws and minimized the significant psychological impact of abortion on women. The Obama administration has also nominated Dawn Johnsen, the former legal director of NARAL, to be the head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel

So as much as Sullivan tries to obfuscate, FOCA is still a viable option for pro-abortion politicians in Congress, and the Obama administration is much more pro-abortion than she would lead one to believe. 

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center