Catholic women make voices heard on visit to State Capitol
SPRINGFIELD -- If Illinois lawmakers don’t know where their Catholic constituents stand on pro-life legislation currently being considered it isn’t because representatives of the Chicago Province of the National Council of Catholic Women didn’t tell them.
Twenty-two women from the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield gathered in Springfield last week to hear about the issues from Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, and Ralph Rivera, lobbyist for Illinois Citizens for Life and Illinois Family Institute. Then they visited their state representatives and senators.
They didn’t stop there.
While they weren’t able to schedule a meeting with Gov. Patrick Quinn or his senior staff, the province delegation went to his office to deliver a letter outlining the Five Non-Negotiable Teachings of the Catholic Church. These include abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and same-sex marriage.
The networking and legislative days, held March 6-7, were coordinated by Joan Weber. The current director of the Chicago Province of the NCCW, she lives in Dunlap and is a member of St. Jude’s Parish in Peoria.
The visits started with Catholics at the Capitol in March 2009 and continue to provide a good chance for the women to learn from and support one another, Weber said.
“It is an opportunity we shouldn’t pass up to let those representatives know our feelings,” she added. “The more often even a few of us come, the more difference it makes.”
MAKING A SACRIFICE
Their efforts are most welcome, according to Gilligan.
“We still believe we live in a representative democracy and lawmakers need to hear from their constituents,” he told The Catholic Post. “As much as we can do on our own, it helps us to have reinforcements from the local communities who are validating what we’re saying and so lawmakers know it’s not just the Catholic bishops that are making these pronouncements or trying to engage in the public policy arena.”
It’s important for the state representatives and senators to understand that real people, people who live and vote in their districts, care about the issues, he said, adding that making those concerns known involves taking time away from work and their personal lives and spending their own money.
“They make an extreme sacrifice to come to the State Capitol to advocate for an unborn child that they’ll never meet. That’s pretty profound,” Gilligan said. “That’s got to register on some level.”
In their talks to the women, Gilligan and Rivera both focused on House Bill 4085, which is known as the Ultrasound Opportunity Act. It would require that a woman seeking an abortion after 7 weeks gestation be offered the opportunity to receive and view the ultrasound image of her baby by the physician who is to perform the abortion, the referring physician or other qualified person working in conjunction with the physicians.
HELPING BABIES, WOMEN
The lobbyists emphasized that HB 4085 mandates the question, not the ultrasound itself. They said most doctors already do an ultrasound to confirm gestational age, rule out ectopic pregnancies and see if there are major medical issues that need to be addressed.
“It’s her choice whether to see it or not. She can say yes or no,” said Rivera, who is in his 38th year of lobbying for pro-life and pro-family issues at the State Capitol.
“We know from the women’s resource centers and crisis pregnancy centers that when they show the ultrasound imaging to women thinking about abortion . . . three out of four women chose to carry that baby to term. One crisis pregnancy center says it’s in the 90s,” he said. “They get to see, they get to realize that it isn’t just a blob of tissue. It’s a human life.”
Rivera said there are about 46,000 abortions in Illinois every year and if only 1 percent of those lives were spared that would be 460 babies and women helped. At 4 percent, that would be 1,800.
“Our bill is just asking a woman a question -- whether or not she wants to see this prior to an abortion,” Gilligan said. “It’s very hard to argue against that. It’s very hard to argue that somebody shouldn’t be asked a question.”
The lobbyists also discussed HB 4117, which would amend the Illinois Ambulatory Surgical Treatment Center Act. It would stipulate if a clinic does 50 or more abortions a year they must meet the same health and safety standards as other ambulatory surgical treatment centers.
The vote on HB 4085 could come as soon as next week, Gilligan said, suggesting that the women make that legislation their first priority when meeting with their state representatives. “That will be more than enough for one conversation.”
He also asked them to stop by the office of Rep. Joe Lyons of Chicago (D-19th) to thank him for sponsoring the bill.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
In addition to Weber, the group from the Diocese of Peoria included Nympha White of Grand Ridge and Agnes Christman of Danville, president and vice president of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, and Mary Anna Meyer of Peoria.
They visited the Stratton Office Building first and then the State Capitol, where they had meetings with Rep. David Leitch of Peoria (R-73rd) and Sen. Darin LaHood of Peoria (R-37th).
“Those who are thinking similarly need encouragement. If they don’t hear from us they may not know we feel this way. Some may feel like they’re out on a limb,” Weber said. “If they’re not being told by us the way we want things to be, they won’t know.”
The group also hopes to make a difference on the national level. After dinner on March 6, province representatives got together to discuss a resolution on homelessness that they would like to present at the NCCW convention in September.