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Quinn and Catholic bishops to discuss abortion, other issues

Personal PAC and Gov. Pat Quinn presented the group's "Pro-Choice Leadership Award" to Jennie Goodman, a victim of rape at 18. This is the award that prompted Cardinal Francis George to criticize Quinn over. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

After getting a standing ovation from a pro-abortion rights group that helped him win the governor’s race, Gov. Pat Quinn revealed Thursday that he would be meeting with the state’s 13 Catholic bishops next month to discuss abortion and other issues.

“We hope that you can make time in your schedule so that we might speak together about several topics, the first being your personal approval of laws permitting the killing of unborn children,” the bishops wrote to Quinn in a letter Wednesday.

Two dozen protestors, including some fellow members of Quinn’s Catholic faith, stood outside the Personal PAC luncheon at the Hilton and Towers Thursday, some holding signs that read, “Shame on pro-abortion ‘Catholic’ Gov. Pat Quinn.”

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George initially scolded Quinn for agreeing to speak at the luncheon, until George was told that Quinn was giving an award to a rape victim, Jennie Goodman. George then softened his criticism of the governor.

Quinn said he is happy to “meet and have a robust dialogue” with the bishops about abortion and about Quinn’s signing of a law barring discrimination against gay couples who want to adopt.

The law “has been used to drive Catholic Charities in our dioceses from caring for foster children and from sponsoring adoptions,” the bishops said in their letter. Quinn said he thought the church should be able to live with the law.

The state ended contracts with Catholic Charities over the summer after they refused to place foster and adoptive children in the homes of gay couples in those in civil unions.

The state says the policy violates the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and the new Civil Union Act.

Quinn said he would meet with the bishops led by Cardinal George at his Chicago office Dec. 16.

Quinn did not shy from his religion at Thursday’s luncheon where some $400,000 to $500,000 was raised to fund candidates who support abortion rights. Quinn even quoted the Bible in explaining why he agreed to present the award to Goodman, who now counsels rape victims.

“I think the essence of my faith is service,” Quinn said. “Service to others is the rent we pay for our place on God’s earth. Martin Luther King said everyone can be great because everyone can serve. … Jennie has found that ethic of service.”

Quinn gave Goodman a big hug to thunderous applause. Goodman starred in a television commercial Personal PAC spent $250,000 airing in the final days of the campaign for governor, helping Quinn eke out a narrow victory over anti-abortion Republican Bill Brady.

“You took a lot of heat over giving me this award, and I hope you know I was by your side cheering you on,” Goodman told Quinn.

Had Brady won, “he would be signing one anti-abortion bill after another,” Personal PAC Executive Director Terry Cosgrove told attendees. Cosgrove praised Quinn, saying “He stands up for what he believes in.” Turning to Quinn, Cosgrove shouted down to him, “Governor, I think that’s the Irish Catholic in us, isn’t it?”

One of the protestors outside Thursday’s luncheon was Mary Higgins, a pharmaceutical consultant who was raped 33 years ago as a college freshman and gave birth to a daughter.

“I am here to represent women who are victims of sexual assault who chose life and to point out that the decision to take the life of a human being is never the answer to a violent crime,” said Higgins, who is about to become a grandmother. “Where in the world do we punish innocent children for the sins and the violence of their father?”

A few of the attendees and a half-dozen counter protestors shouted at the anti-abortion demonstrators but the arguments were mostly civil.

Inside, 1,000 people including Quinn, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and scores of other elected officials, paid $150 to $10,000 per person to raise money to help elect abortion-rights candidates in Illinois.

Goodman said she doesn’t know what she would have done if she had gotten pregnant when she was raped. She said it would have been difficult to be a loving parent when her depression over her rape had led her “into hatred and isolation and fear and substance abuse.”

A parent now of her own choice, she said “I smile every day when I look at my little girl that I chose to have two years ago. She is the love of my life.”

Speakers told stories about their own or their relatives’ experiences seeking illegal abortions in the days before the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade case legalized abortion across the country. They warned those days could return if anti-abortion politicians get their way.

Actress Meredith Baxter closed out the luncheon talking about her abortion because of medical complications with her pregnancy three years after Roe v. Wade.

“Even though it was perfectly legal, I felt guilty,” Baxter said. “I already had three children – I didn’t want another child.”