‘Barbarous’ Reproductive Health Act signed into Illinois law by Gov. Pritzker

The image of an unborn child is seen via ultrasound. On June 12, Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act into law. The act, which was strongly opposed by the Catholic Conference of Illinois, "gives our state some of the most extremely permissive abortion laws of any state in the nation," according to Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Surrounded by proponents of the Reproductive Health Act, including State Rep. Kelly Cassidy and State Sen. Melinda Bush, chief sponsors of the legislation, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law Senate Bill 25 on June 12 in Chicago.

“Let the word go forth today, from this place, that if you believe in standing up for women’s fundamental rights, Illinois is a beacon of hope in the heart of this nation,” he said as the signing ceremony began. “We trust women.”

The Thomas More Society, however, said the new law is tantamount to “legalizing the death penalty, with no possibility of appeal, for viable unborn preemies.”

Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for the society, said “the deceptively titled ‘Reproductive Health Act’ gives our state some of the most extremely permissive abortion laws of any state in the nation.” He noted that among them are making abortion a “fundamental right” protected to a greater degree than free speech and other First Amendment rights; denying legal rights to unborn children up to birth; doing away with licensing requirements for abortion clinics, as well as health and safety inspections; and requiring health insurance policies to cover abortions.

“Its definition of ‘viability’ expressly excludes many babies who today live and thrive when born premature – these babies now have zero legal rights or protections under this law.” — Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel, Thomas More Society

“This act is barbarous,” said the former member of the Illinois House. “Its definition of ‘viability’ expressly excludes many babies who today live and thrive when born premature – these babies now have zero legal rights or protections under this law.”

Breen said he was particularly concerned about stripping away licensing requirements for abortion clinics.

“This removes the only effective tool the state government has to regulate and shut down unsanitary and unsafe abortion clinics,” he said.

The legacy of the governor and any legislator who voted to pass Senate Bill 25 will be that of “cruel dehumanization of unborn Illinoisans on a mass scale,” he said, adding that it violates the “deepest moral and ethical convictions of millions of Illinoisans.”

“NOT DONE YET”

In reacting to passage of Senate Bill 25, which took place late in the evening of the last regularly scheduled day of the spring legislative session, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, also talked about the law’s lack of support among Illinois citizens.

“Except for the political leadership which dominates from Cook County, I don’t think it represents the values of our state,” he told The Catholic Post. “I would say again, a majority of Americans oppose the majority of reasons why abortions take place.”

“Half the human babies, I believe, carried in the womb happen to be of the female gender. They use phrases (such as ‘war on women’) to cover up what they’re doing to destroy human life.” — Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC

And while Cassidy, D-Chicago, and Bush, D-Grayslake, spoke during debates in the House and Senate about how the legislation was needed to combat a “war on women,” Bishop Jenky said, “Half the human babies, I believe, carried in the womb happen to be of the female gender. They use phrases to cover up what they’re doing to destroy human life.”

Throughout the session, the Catholic bishops of Illinois spoke out against the proposed legislation, to the point of holding a press conference at the State Capitol in Springfield on March 28 to urge lawmakers not to advance it.

Known as House Bill 2495 and Senate Bill 1942, the Reproductive Health Act didn’t make much progress until the main provisions were placed in a House Amendment to Senate Bill 25 over Memorial Day weekend. It passed the House on May 28 with 64 voting in favor, 50 opposed, and four voting “present.” The vote in the Senate on May 31 was 34 to 20, with three voting “present.”

Two other pieces of legislation, House Bill 2467 and Senate Bill 1594, would have repealed the Parental Notice of Abortion Act. While these did not advance during the spring session, those speaking at the June 12 signing ceremony for the Reproductive Health Act indicated that it had not escaped their notice.

“I look forward to working with the governor and our pro-choice leaders in the Senate and the House to pass the next important bill, and that is to repeal the dangerous Parental Notice of Abortion law,” said Melissa Widen, who chairs the board of directors of Personal PAC, an organization devoted to making certain abortion remains “safe, legal and accessible to every woman.”

“We’re not done yet,” said Colleen Connell, executive director of ACLU of Illinois.

Bishop Jenky also said the fight must continue.

“I think the biggest conviction we have to have is not to give up,” he told The Post. “I think the moment in the political history of Illinois is somewhat strange. Certain elites are running politics in the state of Illinois, but that won’t happen forever.”

Sometimes defeats stir people up to greater action,” Bishop Jenky said, “and I hope that’s what this does among people of good will.”

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