Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Earlier this month, I gave the invocation at a luncheon meeting of the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago. The guest speaker at this gathering was Sister Helen Prejean, who dedicated much of her life to ending capital punishment and was the inspiration for the movie Dead Man Walking.

Also present at this luncheon was former Gov. Pat Quinn, who was praised for signing legislation on March 9, 2011, to abolish the death penalty in Illinois. Since such legislation is not retroactive, Gov. Quinn also commuted the sentences of all 15 men remaining on death row at the time. This occurred more than a decade after former Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions in Illinois. In fact, the last execution in Illinois took place over 24 years ago on March 17, 1999.

Reflecting on the praise being given to a former governor for ending the death penalty in Illinois, I thought how wonderful it would be if someday we could have a similar luncheon honoring a governor for signing legislation ending abortion in Illinois. It would also be amazing if we could say that no child has been aborted in Illinois for almost a quarter of a century.

Sadly, however, our current governor, J.B. Pritzker, on Jan. 13, 2023, signed sweeping legislation expanding insurance coverage and access to abortion services. Among other things, this new pro-abortion legislation allows advanced practice registered nurses and physicians assistants to perform abortions; requires local units of government, including schools, municipalities, and counties that offer health insurance plans to provide coverage for contraceptives, and if they offer pregnancy-related benefits, abortion; and requires abortifacient drugs (i.e., medications administered to terminate a pregnancy), to be covered by insurers at no-cost to the consumer.

This is on top of the expansive abortion laws passed in 2017 and 2019 in Illinois. The Act Concerning Abortion of 2017 provided for taxpayer funding of abortion, and the so-called Reproductive Health Act of 2019 declared abortion to be a fundamental right, while also declaring that an unborn baby does not have independent rights under the laws of this state. In 2021, Gov. Pritzker signed a law that ended parental notification of a minor seeking an abortion.

As if that is not enough, Gov. Pritzker has endorsed and pledged to sign SB 1909 if it passes, which would target the services provided by pregnancy help centers and sidewalk counselors by subjecting them to fines of up to $50,000 for engaging in “unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive acts or practices” for any concealment, suppression, or omission of a “material fact” as it relates to abortion. The language of the bill could be broadly interpreted by the attorney general and could lead to investigations of pregnancy help centers. There is no guidance as to what are “unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive acts or practices” or what is a “material fact.” There have been no facts cited to support the assertion that pregnancy centers in Illinois have ever engaged in “deceptive, fraudulent, and misleading practices.”

Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society appeared before the Illinois House Health Care Availability & Accessibility Committee on April 25 to give testimony in opposition to SB 1909, saying that SB 1909 flagrantly “violates the First Amendment rights of pro-life organizations and individuals in Illinois, by declaring protected speech a ‘deceptive business practice.’”

Gov. Pritzker has made the outrageous claim that “abortion is health care,” promising that Illinois would be a “safe haven” for women seeking an abortion, despite the fact that abortion certainly does not provide health care for the infant and is anything but safe for the baby about to be murdered.

Gov. Pritzker is obviously not the only pro-abortion politician in Illinois, as his expansive pro-abortion agenda is supported by Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, and Senate President Don Harmon, as well as the Democratic majority in the Illinois General Assembly.

Indeed, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that the state saw a more than a 200 percent rise in abortion patients coming from out of state from 2014 to 2020. The total number of abortions in Illinois has risen from 38,472 in 2014 to 46,243 in 2020. A national report from the Society for Family Planning, which supports abortion rights, found that Illinois clinics performed nearly 30 percent more abortions in August than in April of 2022. It reported that Illinois abortionists performed nearly 7,000 abortions in August of 2022, up from 5,400 in May and April and nearly 6,000 in June of 2022, when the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and returned policy decisions on abortion to the states. So our state is tragically moving in the wrong direction on protecting the lives of unborn babies.

There have been no executions of any prisoners in Illinois since 1999. I pray for the day when we can also say that no abortions of innocent babies are taking place in our land.

May God give us this grace. Amen.