February 15, 2017
Cardinal urges Catholics to oppose bill that would use public funds for abortion
Cardinal Cupich is asking Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago to contact their state legislators to oppose House Bill 40, which would allow for public funding of abortions in Illinois.
The bill, introduced on Jan. 11 by Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, whose district includes Chicago’s Lincoln Park and Lakeview neighborhoods, would require Illinois Medicaid and state employee health insurance plans to cover elective abortions. It would also allow the state to fund agencies that offer abortion counseling or referrals and would remove language in the Illinois law allowing abortions that says the state will go back to outlawing the procedure if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
In a letter that was distributed in parishes the weekend of Feb. 18-19, the cardinal wrote, “We have raised our voices in the past for those who have no voice, whether they be the immigrant or the refugee, the poor or the unemployed. We now need to speak for the children in the womb, who are the weakest among us.
“We need to let our elected officials know that taxpayers should not be forced to fund the taking of human life. In fact, tax money should be used to fund prenatal services for the poor and child care for working mothers, as well as expand health-care options for those in need. Please join me in advocating for all life by urging your state representative to reject HB 40 and work instead to pass a budget that funds all essential services.”
The bill has already passed out of committee, meaning that Feigenholtz can call it for a vote whenever she believes it has the 60 votes needed to pass in the state House. If it passes the Illinois Senate as well, it would be up to Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign it, and he hasn’t indicated what he would do, said Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois.
Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, sent a letter urging parishioners in his diocese to oppose the bill the weekend of Feb. 11-12, and the Catholic Conference of Illinois — the state lobbying arm of the Illinois bishops — reported receiving many phone calls on Feb. 13 and 14 from people looking for contact information for their legislators.
Gilligan said supporters of the bill don’t often talk about the provisions that provide public funding for abortions at any stage of pregnancy, preferring instead to focus on the removal of the “trigger clause” that would forbid abortion in Illinois if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
“We believe life is sacred from conception to natural death,” Gilligan said, adding that since 1973, when abortion became legal, the conference has worked to limit it as much as possible. “This bill takes that debate one giant step for them. … We haven’t had a state budget in almost two years. We can’t fund essential services. We see the problems Catholic Charities is having funding senior services. We have a backlog of billions of dollars [in bills to be paid]. Now the state wants to use tax money to take innocent human life. If that’s not the definition of insanity, I don’t know what is.”
Dawn Fitzpatrick of the archdiocese’s Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity echoed the call for Catholics to make their voices heard.
“This could very well double the number of abortions in the state,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re asking people to please, please, please let your representatives know you are in opposition.”
Gilligan and Fitzpatrick said that the political climate has galvanized groups that support abortion rights. “They’re afraid Roe v. Wade will be overturned, so they have redoubled their efforts at the state level,” Fitzpatrick said.
Gilligan traced the increased organization among abortion rights supporters to the Jan. 21 women’s marches in Washington and other places, including Chicago. Since those marches were organized, supporters of abortion rights have been better able to coordinate their efforts through social media and other means, he said.
“In the past, we’ve been able to galvanize the grass roots better than the abortion-rights groups,” Gilligan said. “That’s changed with this one. We need to step it up.”