‘Illinois FOCA’ bill fails after vocal response

When the call went out for people to contact their legislators in the Illinois House of Representatives and voice their opposition to House Bill 2354, they responded in a big way. The controversial bill was not called for a vote before the April 3 deadline and appears to be dead for this year, according to Zach Wichmann of the Catholic Conference of Illinois.

“What turned the tide is the incredible upswell of grassroots advocacy,” said Wichmann, who is the conference’s associate director for education.

“The bishops — in the parish bulletins — put out a letter opposing the bill. That generated more phone calls, letters, e-mails and personal visits than we had been able to do in the past,” he told The Catholic Post. “So many legislators heard from so many constituents about how bad the bill was.”

The cynics would probably suggest that the decision was all about money, Wichmann said, “but I think we proved otherwise.”

The bill, which has also been referred to as Illinois’ version of the federal Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), would have made abortion a fundamental right immune to any regulation from the state, said Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, in a March 31 letter to state representatives.

He added that it would greatly expand public funding of abortion through Medicaid and possibly state health insurance plans, and would mandate public schools to implement a program of “comprehensive sex education.”

HB 2354 was also considered a threat to the conscience protection laws for health care professionals and institutions.

In the end, the proponents of the bill fell 10 to 15 votes short of the 60 that would be required for passage, Wichmann said.

One of the things that needs to happen now is to talk about how to foster the determination of Illinois citizens who got involved and spoke up for what they believe in, Wichmann told The Post.

“Next time, and there will be a next time, we can build on that momentum,” he said.

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