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March 29, 2009

‘Threat to our freedom’ before state legislature

By Joyce Duriga


HB 2354 at a glance

The “Reproductive Health and Access Act,” also known as House Bill 2354, would:

  • Make abortion a fundamental right, preventing any commonsense regulation such as parental notification
  • Expand public funding of abortion through Medicaid at a time when the State cannot even meet its current fiscal obligations
  • Invalidates the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act protecting health care professionals and employers
  • Force Catholic hospitals to assist patients in obtaining abortions in a timely manner.
  • Mandate comprehensive sex education for all children in public schools
  • Establish a liability shield for abortion providers who harm pregnant women

Please call your Illinois State Representative with this message: “Vote NO on HB 2354. The bill is extreme. It declares abortion to be a fundamental right and it invalidates a health care professional’s right of conscience.”

For more information visit the archdiocese’s Web site at or contact the Respect Life Office at (312) 534-5355 or

There is a bill going through the Illinois legislature that people in the pro-life community are calling “dangerous.” It’s so threatening to the fundamental right to life that Illinois bishops that were distributed in their dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Chicago urging Catholics to contact their legislators to vote against what Cardinal George calls a “threat to our freedom to practice our religion in our state.”

The “Reproductive Health and Access Act,” also known as House Bill 2354, would: Make abortion a fundamental right, repealing any common-sense regulation such as parental notification; expand public funding of abortion through Medicaid; invalidate the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act protecting health care professionals and employers; force Catholic hospitals to assist patients in obtaining abortions; mandate comprehensive sex education for all children in public schools; and establish a liability shield for abortion providers who harm pregnant women

“Thirty years ago, we were told that abortion is a rare but necessary tragedy and that abortion providers should not be legally punished,” Cardinal George wrote in his letter to parishes. “Today we are being told that abortion is a human right and that those who qualify it in any manner or who will not provide it should be legally punished.” (The letter is available in English, Spanish and Polish at

The calls to action over this bill have been flying around the Catholic pro-life community in recent weeks because of its wide impact on women seeking abortions and on health care providers.

HB 2354 passed through the House Human Services Committee in early March and can be brought for a vote at any time before April 3. But if the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, from Chicago’s 25th district, believes she doesn’t have enough support for the bill she might not bring it before a vote.

The bill must pass out of the House by April 3 to stay alive unless the House leadership grants an extension to the bill’s sponsors to generate more support. As of press time, the bill was awaiting a vote.

‘Very damaging’

Would the bill be acceptable if it was revised or some of the provisions taken out? No, said Mary Louise Kurey, director of the archdiocese’s Respect Life Office.

“Any one of the six provisions of this bill would be very damaging if it passed,” she said. “There’s not a way to salvage this bill that would make it palatable.”

Kurey testified against the bill before the House committee earlier in March on behalf of the Catholic Conference of Illinois. Her office continues to get the word out to the Catholic community about the bill.

Parents in Illinois should be concerned about the bill, Kurey said, because it would get rid of any form of mandated parental notification for a minor daughter’s abortion. The Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act, which is being decided upon by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, is poised to take effect and would require that a parent or legal guardian be notified before a minor daughter obtains an abortion, except in extraordinary cases where a judicial bypass of notice is obtained. HB 2354 would eliminate any kind of notification, which is remarkable in an age where a school needs parental permission to give aspirin to a child, Kurey said.

If the bill passes, it would also no longer require that only licensed physicians can perform abortions. And it would make it harder for a woman to sue if something goes wrong.

“What they are trying do is make abortion less safe by making it easier to perform abortions on women,” Kurey said. “This is a get out of jail free card for abortionists who hurt women in botched abortions.”

Limiting health-care ministry

The Catholic Conference of Illinois reports that the Illinois Catholic Health Association, along with 20 Illinois Catholic hospitals and the six Catholic Charities agencies in Illinois oppose House Bill 2354, which represents a radical departure from current Illinois law by forcing healthcare workers to participate in objectionable procedures like abortion.

Patrick O’Rourke, an ethicist at Resurrection Health Care, said if this bill passes it would “seriously limit” the ministry of Catholic health care workers.

“Our conscience clause protections would be greatly eroded with this bill,” said O’Rourke.

“As Catholics physicians we would be mandated to materially participate in abortions. It places our ministry in great jeopardy,” he said.

This strong push for anti-life legislation is a direct result in the change in political power at the top of our country’s government, O’Rourke said.

“We have the most radical pro-abortion leader in American history,” he said. Since the time of Ronald Regan’s administration, people in the pro-abortion community have been in exile and haven’t been able to develop as strong of support for their causes as they can now, he said.