As mothers and grandmothers, we care deeply about the future of Illinois, which is what first drove us into public office. We are committed to the women and children of our state — because we know they often bear the heaviest burden when bad policies hurt working families. As Catholics, we share an abiding commitment to social justice, which includes ensuring that all Illinois residents have equal protection under the law.
That is why we were part of the coalition that sponsored and supported House Bill 40, which protects the legal right and access to abortion in our state. HB 40 ensures that low-income women have insurance coverage, including through Medicaid, for comprehensive reproductive healthcare that includes abortion services.
We are called upon by our faith to care for the marginalized, give voice to the voiceless and lift up the vulnerable. We are called upon as Catholics to walk in the shoes of our neighbors and consider the hardships they face. We will never forget the indescribable joy we felt when we became mothers. But we also acknowledge the moments in our lives when we knew we could not afford to have children. We were both fortunate to have the means and support networks to choose when, how and if to form a family.
Not everyone is so fortunate. In our state, 1 in every 8 residents lives below the poverty line. For children that number goes up to 1 in every 5; and for African American and Latino children, those figures are much higher.
We know that when women are not fully empowered to make their own choices about having children, they can fall deeper into a poverty trap, unable to make ends meet for them and their families.
By ensuring that all Illinois women have the same access to reproductive healthcare — including those who rely on Medicaid — we can avoid discriminatory practices in our state that would unfairly target the poor and deny them the same rights enjoyed by the wealthy.
We know we are not alone in this position. Many Catholics have been guided by their faith to uphold these principles of social justice and moral autonomy. Sixty percent of Catholic voters nationwide believe having an abortion can be a moral decision and a majority support expanding women’s access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion services, regardless of their income level. Our state legislature reflected the will of the people when they passed HB 40 guaranteeing the right of all women in our state to access an abortion.
We urge Governor Bruce Rauner to follow this lead and honor his campaign commitment and sign this important legislation. It is the moral thing to do and it is the right thing for Illinois.
State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-24th
Former State Rep. Kathy Ryg, D-59th
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Doing right and wrong at Wheaton College
Back in early 2016, a highly regarded political science professor, Larycia Hawkins, was given the boot at Wheaton College for expressing respect for the Muslim religion, wearing a hijab in solidarity with Muslims, and being spotted at a Gay Pride Parade by keepers of the Evangelical faith. Shortly thereafter, five stalwarts of the school’s Division III-ranked football powerhouse brutalized a freshman player in a “hazing” incident. The freshman suffered three shoulder surgeries and left Wheaton College faster than a kickoff touchdown run. But school officials, keeping this horrific hazing incident publicity-free for 18 months, required the perpetrators only to perform community service and write an essay on the need to treat folks kindly. And, all the while, they cheered on the football team for bringing glory to their citadel of Evangelical learning. Only when the police and prosecutors stepped up, indicting the five young men alleged involved in the hazing on charges of aggregated battery, mob violence and illegal restraint, did Wheaton College put the five in the football penalty box.
We might want to ponder Wheaton College’s priorities: purity to the cult of the only true religion? Or purity to the cult of football dominance and glory?
Walt Zlotow, Glen Ellyn