Nothing to sign; bill has fizzled
After initially vowing to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, President Barack Obama quickly said it's not his "highest legislative priority.”
That was in March 2009. Since then, it has scarcely been mentioned. A version of the bill was last introduced in Congress in 2007, and no new bill has appeared since.
We asked NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, to assess the progress on this issue.
"The protection of Roe v. Wade in federal law remains a long-term priority for NARAL Pro-Choice America and the pro-choice community. Unfortunately, the composition of Congress (including the first two years of President Obama's term) did not include enough pro-choice votes to pass legislation like the Freedom of Choice Act,” NARAL said in a statement.
NARAL cited other efforts by Obama which the organization views as achievements in reproductive rights, such as rescinding the global gag rule and signing legislation fixing the price of birth control at safety net health centers.
Still, the Freedom of Choice Act has all but disappeared. We rate this a Promise Broken.
THOMAS.gov, Library of Congress website
Email interview with Ted Miller, NARAL Prochoice America, May 30, 2012
Freedom of Choice Act is far from passage
At a news conference marking his first 100 days in office, President Barack Obama answered a question about the Freedom of Choice Act, a law that affirms abortion rights.
"As a candidate, you vowed that one of the very first things you wanted to do was sign the Freedom of Choice Act," the reporter said. "Do you still hope that Congress quickly sends you the Freedom of Choice Act so you can sign it?"
Obama reiterated his support of abortion rights as well as his sympathy for those who oppose it.
"Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not my highest legislative priority," Obama concluded. "I believe that women should have the right to choose, but I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on. And that's where I'm going to focus."
Our research indicates that the Freedom of Choice Act has not been introduced in the current Congress.
The bill, as introduced in previous years, is relatively brief but could have far-reaching effects. (You can read a 2007 version of the bill yourself via this link, click on "Text of legislation.") The bill says that neither local, state nor federal governments may interfere with a woman's right to "(A) to bear a child; (B) to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability; or (C) to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman." It also says that an individual "aggrieved by a violation of this section may obtain appropriate relief (including relief against a government) in a civil action."
People who both favor and oppose the legislation believe it will override some state restrictions on abortion, such as parental notification laws for minors. But exactly which restrictions would be overturned is up for debate. The legislation fails to name any particular abortion regulations that it intends to override. It undoubtedly would be challenged in the courts.
We asked the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America what they thought about the bill's prospects for passage in light of Obama's comments. They sent us a statement praising Obama's support for abortion rights, but they weren't too optimistic about passage for the Freedom of Choice Act.
"With respect to the Freedom of Choice Act, President Obama can't move this bill on his own and, despite our prochoice gains in the last two elections, we don't have the votes in Congress necessary to pass the legislation at this point," the statement said.
So to sum up: Obama said the bill isn't his highest priority, and the bill's supporters say they don't have the votes to pass it. So for now, we rate this campaign promise Stalled.
New York Times, Obama press conference transcript , April 29, 2009
NARAL Pro-Choice America, Freedom of Choice Act
Statement from NARAL Pro-Choice America to PolitiFact.com, May 1, 2009
National Right to Life, Freedom of Choice Act
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Office of the General Counsel, legal analysis of the Freedom of Choice Act , April 15, 2008