Open Letter to President-elect Barack Obama

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President-elect Barack Obama,

As American Catholics, we, the undersigned, would like to reiterate the congratulations given to you by Pope Benedict XVI. We will be praying for you as you undertake the office of President of the United States.

Wishing you much good will, we hope we will be able to work with you, your administration, and our fellow citizens to move beyond the gridlock which has often harmed our great nation in recent years. Too often, partisan politics has hampered our response to disaster and misfortune. As a result of this, many Americans have become resentful, blaming others for what happens instead of realizing our own responsibilities. We face serious problems as a people, and if we hope to overcome the crises we face in today’s world, we should make a serious effort to set aside the bitterness in our hearts, to listen to one another, and to work with one another

One of the praiseworthy elements of your campaign has been the call to end such partisanship. You have stated a desire to engage others in dialogue. With you, we believe that real achievement comes not through the defamation of one’s opponents, nor by amassing power and using it merely as a tool for one’s own individual will. We also believe dialogue is essential. We too wish to appeal to the better nature of the nation. We want to encourage people to work together for the common good. Such action can and will engender trust. It may change the hearts of many, and it might alter the path of our nation, shifting to a road leading to a better America. We hope this theme of your campaign is realized in the years ahead.

One of the critical issues which currently divides our nation is abortion. As you have said, no one is for abortion, and you would agree to limit late-term abortions as long as any bill which comes your way allows for exceptions to those limits, such as when the health of the mother is in jeopardy. You have also said you would like to work on those social issues which cause women to feel as if they have a need for an abortion, so as to reduce the actual number of abortions being performed in the United States.

Indeed, you said in your third presidential debate, “But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, ‘We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.’”

As men and women who oppose abortion and embrace a pro-life ethic, we want to commend your willingness to engage us in dialogue, and we ask that you live up to your promise, and engage us on this issue.

There is much we can do together. There is much that we can do to help women who find themselves in difficult situations so they will not see abortion as their only option. There is much which we can do to help eliminate those unwanted pregnancies which lead to abortion.

One of your campaign promises is of grave concern to many pro-life citizens. On January 22, 2008, the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when speaking of the current right of women in America to have abortions, you said, “And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president.”

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) might well undermine your engagement of pro-life Americans on the question of abortion. It might hamper any effort on your part to work with us to limit late-term abortions. We believe FOCA does more than allow for choice. It may force the choice of a woman upon others, and make them morally complicit in such choice. One concern is that it would force doctors and hospitals which would otherwise choose not to perform abortions to do so, even if it went against their sacred beliefs. Such a law would undermine choice, and might begin the process by which abortion is enforced as a preferred option, instead of being one possible choice for a doctor to practice.

It is because of such concern we write. We urge you to engage us, and to dialogue with us, and to do so before you consider signing this legislation. Let us reason together and search out the implications of FOCA. Let us carefully review it and search for contradictions of those positions which we hold in common.

If FOCA can be postponed for the present, and serious dialogue begun with us, as well as with those who disagree with us, you will demonstrate that your administration will indeed be one that rises above partisanship, and will be one of change. This might well be the first step toward resolving an issue which tears at the fabric of our churches, our political process, our families, our very society, and that causes so much hardship and heartache in pregnant women.

Likewise, you have also recently stated you might over-ride some of President G.W. Bush’s executive orders. This is also a concern to us. We believe doing so without having a dialogue with the American people would undermine the political environment you would like to establish. Among those issues which concern us are those which would use taxpayer money to support actions we find to be morally questionable, such as embryonic stem cell research, or to fund international organizations that would counsel women to have an abortion (this would make abortion to be more than a mere choice, but an encouraged activity).

Consider, sir, your general promise to the American people and set aside particular promises to a part of your constituency. This would indicate that you plan to reject politics as usual. This would indeed be a change we need.

Deal W. Hudson
Marjorie Campbell
Rev. James A. Nowack
Susan DeBoisblanc
Joshua D. Brumfield
Michael J. Iafrate
Matthew Talbot
Henry C Karlson III
Adam P Verslype
Michael J. Deem
Natalie Mixa
Anthony M. Annett
Veronica Greenwell
Robert C. Koerpel
Christopher Blosser
Mark J. Coughlan
Craig D. Baker
Megan Stout
Ashley M. Brumfield
Natalie Navarro
Paul Mitchell
–name entered without permission–
Josiah Neeley
Katerina M. Deem
Henry Newman
Mickey Jackson
Thomas Greenwell PhD
Nate Wildermuth

Originally posted by Henry Karlson at Vox Nova. (Please view the original posting for a list of new additional signees to this letter).

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  1. OK,

    Before I “jump” on this bandwagon I have some questions about this FOCA bill/legislation.

    My understanding, here in Texas anyways, is that with any legislative laws that interprets the constitution no federal bill is able to strip state law that augments said constitutional law. If that state law is not based on the constitution, but interprets state law or anything but federal law, then it can be affected by FOCA.

    I hope the wording makes sense, but that is the way I see FOCA.

    FOCA will never happen. FOCA was a no-brainer for Obama to trumpet up during the election. To “feed” his left-wing base. Obama knows that the majority of state laws wont’ be affected by any FOCA bill/legislation because only the Supreme Court can change constitutional law. Since the vast majority (99%?) of state laws that limit abortions are “interpretive” of the US constitution they won’t be affected.

    Ipso facto, this whole excercise of this “open letter” to Obama is pretty much meaningless.

    IF FOCA passes, it won’t affect almost all state laws (at least here in Texas).

    I’ll do more research on this, but I thought I’d throw this out there to my online lawyer friends to chew on.

  2. Tito:

    Federal law ALWAYS supersedes state law, unless the federal law provides otherwise. This is stuff we learn the first day of law school.


  3. “Federal law ALWAYS supersedes state law, unless the federal law provides otherwise.”

    Unless the federal act is deemed to be an unconstitutional infringement on the powers of the States by the Supreme Court. The Supremes have rightly in the past few years found a few instances where the power of the Commerce Clause was found to be too frail a reed to justify federal preemption.

  4. Lex,

    State laws that “interpret” the US constitution would not be affected by a federal legislative bill. I’ll get back with the proper wording of what I’m trying to say.



  5. Ipso facto, this whole excercise of this “open letter” to Obama is pretty much meaningless.

    IF FOCA passes, it won’t affect almost all state laws (at least here in Texas).

    I wish you were right, but you’re not. FOCA is a potential reality, and if you really don’t think so, you were awfully quiet about that leading up to the election when scores of Catholics (including me) were voicing grave concern.

    Texas is not a privileged state. FOCA is intended to roll back state restrictions on abortion–that would include Texas.

  6. “Texas is not a privileged state. FOCA is intended to roll back state restrictions on abortion–that would include Texas.”

    Right, the only way a state law would survive is if the Supreme Court determined that FOCA went beyond the power of Congress to regulate abortion laws in the states. That would be up to Justice Kennedy; and I don’t think he would be inclined to side with S,T,A,R on this, but it’s hard to say. Kennedy generally follows the opinion polls on controversial issues.

    I am optimistic that there will be opposition within the Obama administration and among vulnerable Congressional Democrats to passing FOCA, but it is a real risk.

  7. Poli,

    I’m still doing my research on this and learned about it two days after the results of the election, but thanks for keeping tabs on me!

    I hope I’m right, but if not, I’ll be signing that ASAP.


  8. Texas is not a privileged state. FOCA is intended to roll back state restrictions on abortion–that would include Texas.

    Shucks. We don’t get to secede again?

    But yes, unfortunately it is correct that FOCA would overturn all state restrictions on abortion.

    As for the letter: I greatly appreciate its intent, but I couldn’t stomach the introductory paragraphs of Obama flattery enough to put my name to it — and I generally do not think that open letters of this sort get a reading from any but those who agree with them already.

  9. Actually, we can secede. The question is if we have the gumption to do it. Because the federal government can’t do anything about it (this time around).

    Again, I’m doing my research on FOCA and I’ll get back to you all about it.

    The introduction was a bit much. It did get picked up by Deal and CNA (I think). But the introduction is a bit much to stomach.

  10. This comment is in response to DarwinCatholic, who claimed that the Obama flattery would only “get a reading…[from] those who agree with them already.” I would instead like to commend the respect and appreciation given to President-elect Obama in this letter.

    Though I do not personally agree with this letter’s main statement, I very much appreciate its tone, not just of flattery but of a willingness for cooperation. I agree with the call for open discourse and the abolition or at least the diminishing of partisanship, as it only serves to catalyze fiery arguments and not constructive debate. The usage of ‘lofty rhetoric’ should not be penalized in the writers’ case, but should be looked upon as one step towards the unity that this country could really use at a time like this.

    Thank you for having a well-structured and, most importantly, respectful tone in these pieces. It allows for better communication, and your letter is not only reaching the ears of your supporters, as some pointed out, but also those looking at others’ views for a better perspective.

Comments are closed.