Bishops speak against proposed abortion bills

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Thursday, March 28, 2019

Cardinal Cupich speaks to the press March 28 at the capitol building. Joining him from left are Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Bishop Daniel Conlon of Jolliet and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield. (Lane Fowler/Hospital Sisters Health System)

The bishops of Illinois’ six Catholic dioceses gathered in Springfield March 28 to speak against proposed legislation that would define abortion as a fundamental right and do away with a law requiring that the parents of minors seeking abortions be notified.

“This is not about the right to an abortion, although we would question that,” said Cardinal Cupich. “This is a radical departure from the status quo that goes far beyond Roe v Wade.”

One of the two bills would define abortion as a fundamental right and states that embryos and fetuses would have no independent rights. It also would remove protections for doctors and other health care providers who refuse to participate in abortions because it violates their consciences and would require that private health insurance in Illinois fully cover the costs of abortions.

Cardinal Cupich said the bills amount to an attack on the dignity of human life.

“The state and its leaders have not only a responsibility but also a vested interest in defending the sacredness and value of every human life,” he said. “Wherever we turn today, we encounter mounting efforts to treat the lives of men, women and children as mere means to larger and allegedly more important goals. Those in need of health care are told it is a privilege they must be able to afford, and those in declining health are considered less worthy of continued care. Global markets are developing for human trafficking and for the sale of human organs by those driven, in the desperation of poverty, to risk death to provide food and shelter for their families.

“In my city, innocent children and adults die almost daily on our streets from gun violence at the hands of those who consider human life to be cheap, abetted by those who place their right to profit from gun sales above our neighbors’ right to life. And in terrorism, we see the chilling assertion that it is legitimate to kill innocent men, women and children to achieve political ends and exact revenge. 

“It is in this context that we must view this proposed legislation as the latest attack on human dignity, motivated by the dominant cultural ethic that asserts the lives of unborn children have no value and sanctity when weighed against the wishes and needs of others.”

The press conference was hosted by the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the public-policy arm of the church in this state, and also included an obstetrician-gynecologist and a neonatal intensive care nurse from Illinois Catholic hospitals and a representative of Catholic Charities from the Diocese of Joliet.

Dr. Jillian Stalling, an obstetrician-gynecologist from OSF HealthCare in Peoria, said she was shocked by the content of the bills.

“As physicians, we take an oath to do no harm,” said Stallings, who is Illinois director of the Catholic Medical Association and a member of the Illinois Catholic Healthcare Association. “We offer patients an objective treatment plan based upon medical training and scientific testing. It has been a longstanding practice, however, to respect doctors’ rights of conscience when they are asked to perform a morally objectionable procedure. … I love taking care of women and delivering babies. If this legislation passes, I am not going to leave the medical profession and abandon women who need good health care. But I will refuse to participate in an abortion.”

MaryBeth Miller, nurse manager at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, said that in her more than 30 years working in neonatal intensive care, she has seen advances in medicine and technology make it possible for younger and younger premature babies to survive and thrive.

“I am stunned at how the proposed legislation goes further than the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v Wade when it flatly states that an embryo or fetus has no independent rights,” Miller said. “The infants that I get to care for every day are tiny human beings. They look at you; they pull back their heels, grimace or cry when they react to pain; and they calm when you hold them and they hear their mother’s voice. They have their own unique temperament and personality from the very beginning.”

Joy Newburn, an outreach support specialist from Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Joliet, said she was there to remind people that Catholic Charities is ready to help families who might be facing unplanned pregnancies.

“Our mission is simple: We are here to help when life gets hard and throws you difficult choices like an unexpected pregnancy. If we can’t help you, we know someone who can,” Newburn said.

“Our services reflect our Catholic faith in action in support of the family,” she added. “We connect expectant mothers with prenatal and post-partum education and support, such as diapers, baby clothes and parenting classes. As the children grow, they can enroll in our daycare or Head Start programs. When they enter grades K through 12, we host an annual back-to-school fair that offers medical, dental and vision check-ups, as well as haircuts, book bags, school supplies, and clothes.”

The bishops declined to take questions on other topics.


  • abortion
  • catholic conference of illionois
  • illinois legislature

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