A new Illinois law was just signed by Governor Bruce Rauner with dire implications for pro-life health care providers.
As an August 9, 2016 National Catholic Register article titled “Illinois Law Threatens Conscience Rights, Crisis-Pregnancy Centers” explains, this new law changes the former state Health Care Right of Conscience Act to require that pro-life doctors, nurses and even staff at crisis pregnancy centers present abortion as a legal treatment option and are required 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 health care options is vague, the law specifically cites:
“family planning, counseling, referrals, or any other advice in connection with the use or procurement of contraceptives and sterilization or abortion procedures…”
Incredibly, this Illinois law also defines conscience rights as merely religious:
“Conscience” means a sincerely held set of moral convictions arising from belief in and relation to God, or which, though not so derived, arises from a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by God among adherents to religious faiths
Ironically, as Kathy Bozyk, who operates the Southside Pregnancy Center in Chicago notes, 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 the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) continue to actively fight crisis pregnancy centers, accusing them of false and misleading information as well as threatening women’s safety. They are a strong force working to get laws like this passed.
There is an unfortunate and surprising assessment of the law in the NCR article from Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois:
According to the article, Mr Gilligan said that although the Conference was disappointed that the governor signed the law, the Catholic Conference was able to negotiate, with opposing parties, a revision to the original bill that the state’s 43 Catholic hospitals can live with, saying with regard to the requirement to refer, transfer or provide written information on where to find an abortion facility :
He 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.
If accurate, is this a helpful or even realistic response?
Fortunately, we have courageous, front-line health care providers like Kathy Bozyk who refuse to comply, Illinois Right to Life continuing its opposition and pro-life legal groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) who 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 that plans a lawsuit.
It’s important to note that this Illinois law comes on the heels of a December California law forcing 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 $1000 a day.
So it is imperative that all of us throughout our nation work to ensure that strong conscience rights be upheld, strengthened, correctly defined and even expanded to include all health care 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.