Belleville Bishop Edward K. Braxton on Sunday told a Catholic congregation not to be afraid to share anti-abortion views as Illinois expands access to the procedure through laws and, most recently, a state-of-the-art Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights that is expected to serve people from states where access is restricted.
The new facility at 317 Salem Place in Fairview Heights will provide surgical and medication abortions, family planning services, annual exams, sexually transmitted infection testing and HIV prevention.
Another Planned Parenthood clinic on Illinois 159 in Fairview Heights had already been providing all of those services except for surgical abortions; it will close when the Salem Place location opens soon. The only other facility to offer surgical abortions in Southern Illinois is Hope Clinic in Granite City.
Braxton spoke publicly for the first time Sunday about the new Planned Parenthood clinic since it was announced Oct. 2. A copy of his sermon was provided to the Belleville News-Democrat by the diocese.
“The teachings of the Church concerning abortion are clear, but we must all acknowledge these teachings are a source of great division and countless arguments among the American people,” he said during his Sunday homily, describing abortion as legal but “immoral.”
“... Share your views honestly and with good will, without being harsh or judgmental.”
Braxton said the Church’s position on abortion is without compromise.
“The Church clearly teaches that human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. Since the first century, the Church has affirmed direct abortion is gravely contrary to the moral law: Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are gravely immoral. As St. Paul writes, ‘You must guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.’”
Planned Parenthood leaders from the St. Louis region have acknowledged that they renovated an existing medical building in secret to avoid delays in opening the clinic because of protests. Anti-abortion activists and Republican lawmakers have since gathered at 317 Salem Place and called on Fairview Heights officials to stop the clinic from opening.
Mayor Mark Kupsky has said the city doesn’t plan to fight the project. The Planned Parenthood clinic is expected to begin seeing patients in late October.
Kupsky said he has been telling residents who are upset to reach out to their state legislators.
Several metro-east legislators, including some Democrats, didn’t support the Reproductive Health Act that made abortion a fundamental right in Illinois earlier this year.
State Reps. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, Monica Bristow, D-Godfrey, and Nathan Reitz, D-Steeleville, each voted against the measure, along with Charlie Meier, R-Okawville.
State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, who co-sponsored the RHA, spoke about Illinois’ expanding abortion access during a news conference at the new Planned Parenthood clinic earlier this month.
“As the state of Missouri moves toward blocking organizations like Planned Parenthood in their state, I’m proud that the state of Illinois is committed to helping those receive safe and affordable access to reproductive health care needs, whatever they may be,” Stuart said.
Missouri has only one licensed abortion provider, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, and the state has tried to pull its license.
Braxton and other leaders of the Catholic Church have called Illinois’ Reproductive Health Act “morally unacceptable.”
In his message to the Belleville Diocese, he encouraged parishioners to extend their “respect for life” to women approaching a clinic to have an abortion and to doctors and nurses who perform the procedure.
“It is a contradiction to say one respects life and at the same time condone the intimidation or even the harming of those who do not share our moral convictions,” Braxton said.