Open Letter to the Obama-Biden Transition Team

Mr. Podesta,

You wrote me an email last week and today. I’d like to respond to your invitation to converse. Specifically I’d like to address President-elect Barack Obama’s plans for overhauling health care.

Please note I am NOT a supporter of Mr. Obama. I am, however, a faithful US citizen who will support my president. In return I expect him to represent me well; even on matters where we disagree as he offered in his victory speech on Election Day.

Concerning the so designated Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) we do not agree. I find it to be bad law, based on bad science and bad ethical standards.

You’ll note that someone posted – at the change.gov website – the document Advancing Reproductive Rights and Health in a New Administration. I strongly disagree with the positions noted in this document. The FOCA and the other “administrative” actions proposed are bad public policy.

The incoming Administration’s use of the official government website change.gov implies that you presume your election agenda should now become – in its entirety – the Administration’s agenda. Letting NARAL et al post their action paper confirms this. Your “round up the troops” style of email to me is in the same vein. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Obama’s job is to do what’s right for his entire constituency – the citizens of the United States of America.

I have reviewed the FOCA legislation proposed in the 110th congress. I oppose it and ask Mr Obama to consider these points.

Some of the supporters of the “Freedom of Choice Act” state that it merely codifies Roe v. Wade. This is false. As the American Civil Liberties Union said in its Reproductive Rights Update from December 20, 1991,

“This [FOCA] bill prohibits such restrictions as parental notification and consent, as well as the requirement that all abortions be performed in a hospital, spousal consent, waiting periods …”

Planned Parenthood’s web site, “Support the Freedom of Choice Act.” likewise says,

The legislation (FOCA) would invalidate existing and future laws that interfere with or discriminate against the exercise of the rights protected. It also would provide an individual aggrieved by a violation of the act a private right of civil action in order to obtain appropriate relief.”

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/issues-action/abortion/freedom-of-choice-act/articles/support-foca-14393.htm viewed 13 Jan 09.

In Maryland, Freedom of Choice-type legislation has been on the books since 1991. This has not led to a reduction of abortions in the state, but appears to actually have had the adverse effect of increasing the abortion rate in Maryland. According to Planned Parenthood’s own Alan Guttmacher Institute, the abortion rate in the United States has declined nine percent since 2000 to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 2005. By contrast, the state of Maryland produced a rate of 31.5 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age, an increase of eight percent since 1991. “State Facts about Abortion: Maryland.” Guttmacher Institute. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/sfaa/maryland.html.

Each of the proposed Administrative rule changes deserve its own analysis and should not be changed by the Administration on the supposed mandate of the Nov 4th election.

For these reasons I do not support FOCA or any of the “administrative” recommendations noted at this website. Moreover, many polls and studies show that the majority of Americans want more restriction on abortion than is the current law.Note also that the change.gov comment board has been very active. I presume you will be analyzing the blog and tracking the content for information on how you should approach the lawmaking to implement public policy. I would ask that you use a prudent person perhaps even one who has an opposing viewpoint to analyze the blog for public sentiment. I am concerned that you will leave that task to someone who by viewpoint and political leaning discounts the arguments of people of faith. I would point out that the clear majority of those posting at the site oppose FOCA and any relaxing of regulations limiting abortion. I note (with personal pleasure) that many of these are written from a specifically religious viewpoint. However that does not discount them or me. These strongly held personal viewpoints inform the conscience of many Americans. Discounting or ignoring these people of faith who express prayerful hope concerning a change in policy would be a recipe for sharp and open disagreement in the public debate and in the Congress. It would also do nothing to invite public confidence in the new President or his Administration.

Much of the debate at the comment board has been sharp, some even hostile but most has been surprisingly civil. An accusation is being made that the “forced-birth” activists are crashing the website in a coordinated plan to sway the outcome and squelch the voices of a supposed Pro-Choice majority. This charge demonstrates a paranoia by some pro-abortion participants who seem to actually believe that the anonymous board participants have somehow conspired to suppress their viewpoint. So I would ask that you refer to the site to see the honest concerns of people who know abortion to be bad morally and bad as public policy.

It would be a fine thing indeed to see Mr. Obama analyze facts, determine the best course of action and change his mind on this matter. It would make me a believer in the power of the democratic process in a 2 party system. Short of that could you please see the voices of those asking for more, or at least no fewer, restrictions on abortion are not ignored. Please see that a debate occurs based on the science and true concern for women and the poor.

Thank you for your attention.


Mr Podesta’s email to me today:

Dear Matthew,

Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States tomorrow, marking the beginning of a new era.

It also marks the end of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition, which you have helped make the most transparent, accessible, and effective in history.

Thousands of you hosted health care discussions in communities across the country, gathering and providing feedback that will guide the Obama-Biden Administration efforts to overhaul the current system. You’ve participated online like never before, sharing your stories, collaborating on fresh ideas, and asking important questions.

The Transition has also been the most open in history. Transition staff published meeting information and thousands of documents received from outside groups through our “Seat at the Table” program, and published the name of every one of our donors.

We couldn’t have done it without your active participation — and as President Barack Obama will need your help more than ever, join his new online community at the White House and stay involved:

http://change.gov/joinus

Your participation in this Transition has been truly inspiring — thank you.

John

John Podesta
Co-chair
Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Project

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