Illinois abortion vote ‘an appalling step in the wrong direction,’ says Bishop Jenky
By passing the Reproductive Health Act, the Illinois General Assembly has shown a disregard for the value of human life and the beliefs of the majority of people in the state — and the nation, according to Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.
“They describe a human baby in the womb as a thing, as an object, something that’s disposable, and this is an appalling step in the wrong direction,” he told The Catholic Post. “There is nothing healthy about taking human life.”
The legislation declares abortion to be a fundamental right, with proponents in both chambers talking about the need to codify provisions for access to abortion in case Roe v. Wade is overturned. It also states that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of the state.”
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In a series of statements issued by the Catholic Conference of Illinois, however, the bishops of Illinois warned that the legislation goes beyond Roe v. Wade, including provisions that “render any regulation of abortion impossible” and “strip away standards for and regulation of clinics where abortion is performed.”
“This act is an extreme measure, allowing for the abortion of unborn life at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason. It sends a message to everyone in our state that life is cheap.” — Catholic Conference of Illinois
“This act is an extreme measure, allowing for the abortion of unborn life at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason,” the bishops said after the Reproductive Health Act was passed by the Illinois House on May 28. “It sends a message to everyone in our state that life is cheap.”
The following day, they called on the State Senate to reject the legislation.
“We appreciate the complex and difficult challenges facing women who have unplanned pregnancies or who carry babies destined to have short or difficult lives. They deserve all the support society can give them,” the bishops said in a statement issued May 29. “But to deny that the lives growing within these women is anything other than human or that they would, in the vast majority of cases, develop into healthy children is simply to deny reality.”
As for the need to ensure protections in case Roe v. Wade is overturned, the bishops said at a press conference on March 28 and again May 26 that this was not necessary since House Bill 40, signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2017, authorized taxpayer funding of abortion.
ON THE FAST TRACK
Respect life advocates had been working throughout the spring session to stop the Reproductive Health Act, then known as House Bill 2495 and Senate Bill 1942.
“Our commitment, of course, is to the Gospel of Life and to decide that some human beings have less value than other human beings is an appalling mistake.” — Bishop Jenky
Life Advocacy Days in March and April brought hundreds to the State Capitol to visit with their legislators. The one on March 20 coincided with a rally sponsored by Illinois Right to Life Action, the Pro-Life Action League and the Illinois Family Institute that drew so many people that no one else was allowed to enter the building until it was over.
Two other pieces of legislation, House Bill 2467 and Senate Bill 1594, would have repealed the Parental Notice of Abortion Act for minors seeking an abortion and was being watched carefully.
While the bills were in subcommittees for most of April and May, a move was made to speed the process along by placing many of the provisions for the Reproductive Health Act into a House Amendment to Senate Bill 25. This version includes conscience protections for health care professionals who refuse to participate in an abortion, and restricts surgical abortions to physicians.
“DO NOT BE AFRAID”
Bishop Jenky said asking taxpayers to support the business of abortion is “immensely offensive.”
“Our commitment, of course, is to the Gospel of Life and to decide that some human beings have less value than other human beings is an appalling mistake,” he told The Post. “I would say again, a majority of Americans oppose the majority of reasons why abortions take place. To have a law that makes this the most radical state in the 50 states, with all the problems we have, is just stunning.”
“This is not what our state should be known for. The state of Illinois should be known for its great leadership in our nation, not in its great destruction of human life.” — Msgr. Mark Merdian, episcopal vicar for health care for the Diocese of Peoria
“This is not what our state should be known for,” said Msgr. Mark Merdian, episcopal vicar for health care for the Diocese of Peoria. “The state of Illinois should be known for its great leadership in our nation, not in its great destruction of human life.”
Not only is this type of law unjust, he said, but it creates a culture of disrespect for all life — inside and outside the womb.
“When we start to take away the rights of the most disenfranchised or the most unprotected, then this continues to rapidly expand, whether it’s the handicapped, those who have any disabilities, the elderly,” according to Msgr. Merdian, who is also the pastor of St. Pius X in Rock Island. “There would be easy targets to this current culture if we allow this to prevail.”
“Now it’s a matter of really reaching out and really educating and re-evangelizing and educating with science . . . the dignity and beauty of life at all stages.” — Cecilia Soñé, diocesan respect life director
“In the long and arduous battle for the sanctity of human life ‘from the womb to the tomb’ there are some very good things happening and some very bad things happening. This is part of what St John Paul II called ‘the interplay of light and shadows,’” said Father William Miller, episcopal vicar for respect life and pastor of parishes in the Galesburg Catholic community.
“At this critical juncture we need to intensify our prayer and penances for the conversion of minds and hearts,” he said.
Cecilia Soñé, diocesan respect life director and a family nurse practitioner with OSF Women’s Health and FertilityCare in Normal, said that while she was “reeling” over what was happening, she didn’t despair.
“I don’t lose hope. Christ won the battle on the cross,” she told The Post. “Now it’s a matter of really reaching out and really educating and re-evangelizing and educating with science . . . the dignity and beauty of life at all stages.”
She added that she’s a fighter.
“This is a good time to get into spiritual warfare with that rosary,” Soñé said.
Bishop Jenky also quoted St. John Paul II, saying, “Do not be afraid.”
“We aren’t going to go away. We’ll keep on praying and working and serving and we will not be intimidated by the forces arrayed against us,” he said. “Prayer does work miracles.”