League Executive Director Eric Scheidler speaks with IL State Rep. Linda ChapaLaVia
For the third straight year, pro-life forces in Illinois, marshaled by the Pro-Life Action League, have defeated one of the most pernicious pieces of pro-abortion legislation to be introduced in any state in the union. So much public outcry was raised against the so-called “Reproductive Health and Access Act” (RHAA)—better known as “Illinois FOCA” for its resemblance to the federal Freedom of Choice Act dropped by Congress—that it was never brought forward for a vote.
Illinois FOCA would have established abortion as a “fundamental right” in the state, blocked any restriction of abortion, required Planned Parenthood-style “condom training” sex ed classes in school and forced taxpayers to pay for thousands of abortions.
Pro-Life Coalition Reactivated
A year before, the League had formed a coalition with pro-life, pro-family and church groups throughout the state to defeat the 2009 version of Illinois FOCA. The capitol in Springfield was flooded with calls, faxes, e-mails and in-person visits from pro-life citizens from across the state, and protests and prayer vigils were held at representatives’ district offices. In the end, statehouse leadership decided never to bring the bill up for a vote.
The coalition was ready to resume the fight against Illinois FOCA this year, especially after League staff intercepted e-mail messages from proabortion groups vowing to resurrect it. League Executive Director Eric Scheidler and his assistant Matt Yonke began monitoring the General Assembly website, and on February 12, the bill was introduced.
League Leaps Into Action
(Left to right) The League’s Matt Yonke, Eric Scheidler and volunteer Jerry Nickels in the Illinois Capitol building
Eric and Matt leapt into action. First they updated the StopIllinoisFOCA.com website with information on the new bill, and launched a petition drive against the bill. Working with Ralph Rivera of Illinois Citizens for Life and Bob Gilligan of the Illinois Catholic Conference, Eric and Matt formulated “talking points” to help pro-life Illinoisans effectively convince their legislators to oppose the bill. Other members of the coalition, like Students for Life of Illinois and SpeakOut Illinois, organized special lobbying days in Springfield to stop the bill.
On March 10, the pro-life coalition benefited from innovative use of new technology when Alicia Torres, from the Archdiocese of Chicago Respect Life Office, “tweeted” a hearing on the bill in the Human Services Committee, with brief updates posted on Twitter.com every few minutes. Ignoring the testimony of articulate pro-life opponents like the archdiocese’s Mary-Louise Kurey, the committee approved the bill and sent it on to the full House of Representatives.
One Last Push Kills Bill
The committee vote was disappointing but not unexpected, considering the close ties between some committee members and the pro-abortion lobby. Rivera and Gilligan knew that the bill’s supporters just didn’t have the votes to pass it, so focus turned to keeping the pro-abortion side from turning legislators on the bill.
Through the remainder of the legislative session, the coalition kept the pressure on with e-mails, office visits, automated phone calls and petitions. On March 28, the session ended without RHAA ever being called for a vote—a major blow to the pro-abortion groups that had devoted so much effort to the bill. They can expect the same treatment next year if they try again to pass the thricedefeated Illinois FOCA bill.