Metro-East News

Catholic leaders say abortion legislation pending in Illinois is an affront to religious freedoms

How abortion access would vary without Roe v. Wade

Different states have different laws in place that will take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
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Different states have different laws in place that will take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Illinois’ Catholic leaders say proposed legislation pending in the General Assembly greatly expanding reproductive rights in the state treads on their First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

One of the measures, called the Reproductive Health Act, would repeal the Prairie State’s abortion law and replace it with language its Democratic sponsors call more up-to-date. Among other things, it would require private insurance companies to cover abortion procedures, repeal a ban on partial-birth abortions, and strike a requirement that only doctors perform the procedure.

The other measure would repeal the Parental Notification of Abortion Act, which requires a minor to consult with her parent or guardian before terminating a pregnancy.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of Catholic Conference of Illinois, said Thursday these measures are evidence the state is “headed on the wrong path.” The group represents Illinois’ six Catholic bishops, including Bishop Edward K. Braxton, of the Belleville Diocese.

“These bills taken together crowds us out. For people who have moral objections, they basically are saying we don’t have any rights,” Gilligan said. “That’s what’s going on, that people with First Amendment rights are being crowded out of protections under the law.”

The bishops’ statement reads, in part:

“As Illinois faces so many pressing issues involving human life and dignity, it is incomprehensible that our elected officials have decided the pressing issue of the day is to enhance the chances that the lives of the most vulnerable and voiceless will be taken. Their efforts, similar to recent actions in New York and Virginia, focus on corrupting our God-given right to life and sowing unnecessary division.

Bob Gilligan.jpg
Bob Gilligan

Abortion is not health care. It is the intentional taking of innocent and defenseless human life. Moreover, provisions in the law that allow healthcare providers to live and work in accordance with their sincerely-held moral beliefs are not wrong. Freedom of religion and conscience protections are fundamental rights, enshrined in our state and federal constitutions, and they must be respected.

“Opposition to these bills does not require one to assume a pro-life political position. Opposition should be the natural result of applying reason, fairness and a basic respect for human dignity to the examination of their contents. We cannot further devalue human life to the extent proposed in this legislation without dire consequences for ourselves.

“We hope to lead all people of goodwill to rise up and be heard in opposition to these terrible efforts. Accordingly, in the days ahead, we will be distributing more information and calls to action. Today, we ask for your prayers and support as you certainly have ours.”

By regulating private insurance companies to cover abortion procedures as they do birth control, for example, Gilligan said everyone who participates financially in that insurance plan is paying for such procedures with no ability to opt out.

The measure would also remove a law allowing medical professionals to decline to participate in abortion procedures, which he added raises other moral questions.

“It’s hard to come up with a word that really describes how bad this is,” Gilligan said. “I think it’s an assault on human dignity and it violates our concept of fairness.”

The first pair of legislation, which repeals the Abortion Act of 1974, is House Bill 2495 and Senate Bill 1942. The second pair of legislation, repealing the Parental Notification of Abortion Act, is House Bill 2467 and Senate Bill 1594. All four are sponsored by Democratic lawmakers.

The initiatives mirror those presented in a report published by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Equality, Equity, and Opportunities transition team. The governor has vowed to “make Illinois the most progressive state in the nation for access to reproductive health care.”