At 26 cents, the postcard is arguably the most affordable teaching tool for the church in the United States, and it has the potential to be the most effective tool, too – large enough to deliver an invitation or announcement, inexpensive enough to demonstrate good stewardship. If it is used correctly, i.e., a single message with an economy of words, the postcard can have the impact of a billboard in a recipient’s mailbox.

In 1993, the U.S. bishops recognized the value of the postcard as a powerful tool in lobbying Congress to protect the unborn. The focus of their attention was the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) that was on the agenda of the newly-elected Clinton Administration. Encouraged by their bishops and pastors, millions of pro-life Catholics signed the cards and sent them to their senators and representatives. Congress got the message. FOCA died.

Sixteen years later, a new administration has an agenda that includes the same piece of legislation. It’s unfortunate that President Obama included FOCA as part of his “change you can believe in,” but fortunate that he made no secret about where he stood when it came to the unborn. In openly courting the pro-abortion vote, he gave the U.S. bishops time to hone their postcard message and to rally the faithful.

We are pleased that the bishops remembered the impact of the 1993 postcard deluge and were ready when President Obama took office. They needed to be ready, as candidate Obama had stated to a meeting of the Planned Parenthood Action fund in July 2007, “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing that I’d do.”

Late last month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops began distributing more than 10 million postcards to parishes, schools, non-Catholic churches and other organizations that want to send their Congressional representatives a simple but powerful message: Protect the unborn. At the core of that message is FOCA, the legislation that would remove all state restrictions on abortions and give the procedure, including partial-birth abortions, federal “entitlement” status – an entitlement which would be paid for by our tax dollars.

Given that Congress has the challenges of a faltering economy with which to deal, it is possible that FOCA will not get the legislative introduction and attention that its backers want. However, in case it does, elected representatives will, if bishops, pastors and concerned laity demonstrate the same commitment they did 16 years ago, face stacks of signed postcards reminding them they have constituents who consider protection of unborn human life a critical matter.

The postcard campaign is the Catholic Church in the United States at its best. Rather than having a variety of bishops trying to address a litany of concerns, garnering little or no attention and generating no action, it has focused its message on one topic and provided a proven manner in which concerned citizens can voice their views.

Invest 26 cents. Send Congress a message. Tell them to protect the unborn.