There’s a saying in Iowa politics: “at least we’re not like Illinois.”
Rather, it’s not so much a saying as much as just something people say. During the few years I lived in Iowa – first as a student and then as staff in the state capitol – the pride and affection that Iowans felt for their state left a deep impression on me. This feeling of pride was multiplied tenfold in the state’s elected officials, who felt a great responsibility for the constituents who elected them.
What’s Iowa got to do with Illinois? Another pro-life neighbor with a notable appreciation for the democratic process (the months leading up to caucus are allotted a special reverence all their own), Iowa stands in stark contrast to the perpetually-disappointed Illinois electorate.
And as we await the signature of Governor Pritzker on the most extreme abortion legislation in the country, Illinois legislators’ lack of state pride and accountability is more apparent than it’s ever been.
Let’s dispel any confusion here and now: the people of Illinois spoke out on this issue.
18,000 witness slips were filed to oppose the mis-named Reproductive Healthcare Act when it was first brought to committee. 4,000 protesters staged the largest organized event held at the Capitol in almost a decade. Thousands returned throughout the session to lobby alongside the Catholic Conference of Illinois. And then, as the RHA was quietly added to an unrelated Senate bill on the Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend, more than 5,000 residents broke away from family barbeques and holiday outings to reiterate what had been said from the start: we DO NOT WANT late term abortion.
The reason that Illinois has a higher exit rate than any other state in the union is resoundingly clear to us now – the answer, taxes and pensions and abortions aside, is this: elected officials simply don’t care.
They don’t care that the number of calls, emails, and in-person meetings on this legislation were commissioned overwhelmingly by pro-life residents. They don’t care that late term abortion is remarkably violent – requiring a lethal dose of medication for the child in utero and a traumatic experience for the mother, who’ll be forcibly dilated and subject to a painful procedure that involves removing her now-deceased child with forceps. They don’t care that more taxpayer-funded abortions mean more money spent on something that harms communities – particularly low-income, minority communities – rather than something that builds them up. And they don’t care that women’s healthcare providers across the state – Planned Parenthood included – will now be exempt from licensure requirements, safety and sanitation standards, and regular inspections by the health department.
Illinois legislators simply don’t care. They’re driven by the promise of campaign funds in the coming cycle, the pressure of activist Chicago media outlets, and, above all else, utter fear of leadership – specifically, Mike Madigan, who essentially renounced his lifelong faith this week when he said on-record that protecting abortion is more important to him than receiving the Catholic sacraments.
As a Catholic Christian myself, I have a particular appreciation for Matthew 21:12-13, where we catch a glimpse of the justified anger of Christ. The passage says that Jesus “entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.” Of this outburst, he said, “my house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a robbers’ den.”
The womb should be a protected place for the most vulnerable members of our human family. Illinois legislators have traded in money, power, and political security for the lives of the weakest and most innocent among us. What’s more, they did all of these things despite the very loud, very clear outcries of the Illinois people – in secret, over a holiday weekend, when they thought no one was watching.
If you’re not furious yet, you should be. It’s time to overturn some tables.
– written by our executive director, Mary Kate Knorr