A new Illinois law just signed by Governor Bruce Rauner has dire implications for pro-life healthcare providers.
According to the National Catholic Register (“Illinois Law Threatens Conscience Rights, Crisis-Pregnancy Centers,” August 9, 2016), this new law changes the former state Health Care Right of Conscience Act so that it now requires pro-life doctors, nurses, and even staff at crisis pregnancy centers to present abortion as a legal treatment option, and to refer, transfer, or give information about where to go for an abortion when a woman says she wants one.
While the terminology about other healthcare options is vague, the amended law specifically defines as healthcare “family planning, counselling [sic], referrals, or any other advice in connection with the use or procurement of contraceptives and sterilization or abortion procedures.”
Kathy Bozyk, who operates the Southside Pregnancy Center in Chicago, notes that, ironically, while she is required by the law to discuss the alleged benefits of abortion and refer women to abortion providers, abortion businesses are not required to make referrals to crisis pregnancy centers.
Instead, abortion groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) continue to actively fight crisis pregnancy centers, accusing them of providing false and misleading information, as well as threatening women’s safety.They are a strong force working to get laws like this passed.
The Register article also reports on a surprising and unfortunate assessment of the amended law by Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois. He said that, although the conference was disappointed that the governor signed the bill, the conference was able to negotiate a revision to the original bill that the state’s 43 Catholic hospitals can accommodate. Regarding the requirement to refer to, transfer to, or provide written information on where to find an abortion facility, Gilligan “said co-sponsors of the bill said even simply ripping out the pages of a phone book with names of all the local OB-GYNs in a certain area would be enough to comply.”
Even if the co-sponsors’ claim is accurate, is this a helpful or even realistic response?
Fortunately, we have courageous, frontline healthcare providers who refuse to comply, like Kathy Bozyk; Illinois Right to Life’s continuing opposition; and pro-life legal groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed a lawsuit in state court against Governor Rauner on behalf of the Pregnancy Care Center of Rockford, and the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, which plans to file a lawsuit.
It’s important to note that this Illinois law comes on the heels of a new California law that took effect in December 2015. It forces pro-life pregnancy centers and state-licensed medical clinics to distribute information on where and how to obtain a state-funded abortion or face fines of $1,000 a day.
So it is imperative that all of us throughout our nation work to ensure that strong conscience rights are upheld, strengthened, correctly defined, and even expanded to include all healthcare ethics issues, especially in the face of possible or actual assisted suicide laws.
Conscience rights are essential to help us protect our patients from a healthcare system that is increasingly succumbing to a “culture of death” mentality.