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Cardinal Cupich calls abortion-rights bills ‘attack on human dignity’

Cardinal Blase Cupich speaking at a Chicago City Council meeting in 2017. | Associated Press

The influential leader of Chicago’s Catholic Archdiocese on Thursday urged lawmakers to reject two abortion-rights measures moving through the Illinois Senate, calling them “an attack on human dignity.”

The Springfield press conference had proponents of the bill calling Cardinal Blase Cupich’s words “rhetoric and misinformation.”

Cupich last came to Springfield in March 2018 to make a plea to lawmakers to pass “sensible” gun-control measures in the name of “murdered children” in Parkland, Florida, and Newtown, Connecticut. While that effort didn’t immediately work, a similar gun dealer licensing measure supported by Cupich was signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker this year.

Now, Cupich — along with the state’s six Catholic bishops — is focusing his efforts on squashing two new pieces of legislation.

One bill would end the requirement that minors without parental consent go before a judge to gain health care approval for an abortion. Another would repeal a provision — already blocked in court — that provides for criminal penalties for doctors providing abortion care to patients.

The bills are moving through the Illinois Senate, but are stuck in a subcommittee in the Illinois House.

At a Springfield press conference, Cupich said the measures take away the rights of unborn children, while also removing the right of health care workers to refuse to participate in procedures that violate their right of conscience.

“This morning I come to question the unlimited right of one human being to end the life of another,” Cupich said, while calling the measures “the latest attack on human dignity.”

Cupich said a Roe v. Wade protection was already granted in the signing of House Bill 40, the controversial measure former Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law. The law ensures abortion remains legal in Illinois even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, while also allowing women with Medicaid and state-employee health insurance to use their coverage for abortions.

“This is a fundamental question that should be well considered before such important legislation is voted on,” Cupich said. “Who lives? Who dies? who decides?”

Cupich said 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.”

Cupich’s plea for state lawmakers to reject the measures comes days after a letter appeared in church bulletins across Chicago, urging parishioners to reach out to lawmakers.

“As citizens of a state and people of faith who care about the common good, I urge you to join me and my brother bishops in an effort to defeat this radical departure from current law and practice in our state,” Cupich wrote in the March 23rd letter.

Backed by the American Civil Liberties of Illinois and Planned Parenthood of Illinois, the two measures are being introduced because abortion rights advocates want them “off the books.” And the repeals were mentioned in a report by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Equality, Equity and Opportunities transition team, which recommended “the new administration should take action to keep abortion safe, legal and accessible in Illinois.”

Planned Parenthood of Illinois on Thursday said Cupich’s words were “not based on fact.”

“Rhetoric and misinformation do not protect women or health care providers,” said Jennifer Welch, the group’s leader. “Those who oppose reproductive health care and rights have made one thing clear: their real agenda is to ban safe, legal abortion entirely.”

And the America Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, too, fought back, saying the press conference used “false claims and heated rhetoric” to “deny women their basic right to make their own medical decisions about abortion, contraception and maternal care.”

Cupich was also asked repeated questions about the archdiocese’s handling of sex abuse cases, which he repeatedly declined to answer.

“The focus needs to stay on this today,” Cupich said.

A 182-page report released last week compiled information about nearly 400 Catholic clergy members and church staff in Illinois who have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct in the state’s six dioceses, including dozens in Chicago.

The Archdiocese of Chicago said it releases the names of every priest who has had a substantiated allegation against him and turns over the names of those accused to law enforcement.