Catholic bishops issued a call for fierce opposition to the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) from their annual national conference.  They offered olive branches to the incoming Barack Obama administration on a wide range of policies, but drew the line at rolling back every abortion restriction over the last 35 years.  Saying that they could never cooperate with evil, the bishops called into question whether the Catholic Church would continue to provide health care if FOCA passes:

Meeting on the second day of their annual conference, the nation’s Catholic bishops urged an aggressive campaign to oppose the pro-abortion bill expected to be the centerpiece of the Barack Obama administration. They also mentioned concerns about Catholic hospitals being forced to do abortions. …

The statement included talking points saying that the Catholic bishops were willing to work with Obama on common issues like the economy, immigration and health care, but ready to strenuously oppose any efforts to expand abortions further.

“The church is also resolute in opposing evil,” and the bishops are “completely united and resolute in our teaching and defense of the unborn child from the moment of conception.”

The bishops also expressed concern about FOCA because it could overturn protections for Catholic hospitals that don’t want to do abortions.

Some of the bishops, during the discussion, went as far as saying the Catholic Church should be willing to close some health facilities rather them allow them to be subject to a mandate to do abortions from the Obama administration.

How serious are they?  So serious that they won’t bother to sell the hospitals.  They’ll shut them down and take the losses in order to prevent their use as abortion clinics.  To do otherwise, the bishops stated, would be to cooperate in the evil of abortions.

What kind of impact would that have?  The Catholic Church is one of the nation’s biggest health-care providers.  In 2007, they ran 557 hospitals that serviced over 83 million patients.  The church also had 417 clinics that saw over seven million patients.  If they shut down almost a thousand hospitals and clinics nationwide, the US would not just lose a significant portion of available health care, but the poor and working-class families that received the health care would have fewer options.

Also, the Catholic Church runs this on a non-profit basis, spending vast sums of its money to ensure access for those unable to pay.  That’s the kind of model that many on the Left believe should exclusively provide health care — and FOCA would spell the end of the major provider already in that model.

Unfortunately, the Catholic Church didn’t spell this out explicitly enough earlier in the year, when it may have made some difference with parishioners.  At least they are speaking out on it now.  We have to push hard for a filibuster on FOCA, and hope we have enough Republican votes to sustain it.