On Wednesday, March 3, Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Eric Scheidler and I headed down to Springfield, Illinois along with local activist Jerry Nickels to join in the Catholics at the Capitol day sponsored by the Catholic Conference of Illinois.
The day began with Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception presided over by Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Hundreds of faithful Catholics were in attendance, packing the Cathedral to overflowing.
After the Mass, Bob Gilligan, Executive Director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, gave some instructions on how to locate and get in contact with Representatives and Senators as well as the issues that the Illinois Catholic bishops are concerned with in this legislative session.
League Seeks to Fight “Illinois FOCA”
Of particular interest to us was HB6205, the “lllinois FOCA” bill. The League, along with a coalition of other pro-life groups from across the state, has fought this bill twice before under different names and bill numbers.
If passed, the bill would create the most radical expansion of abortion in Illinois since Roe v. Wade and would abolish all restrictions on abortion. Find out all about the bill and what Illinoisans are doing to fight it at the Stop Illinois FOCA website.
Meeting with Rep. Chapa LaVia
Eric, Jerry and I then headed over to the Capitol where we planned to meet with our representative, Linda Chapa LaVia. Rep. Chapa LaVia had previously been a pro-choice Democrat but has made something of a conversion to the pro-life cause in the last few years which has been wonderful to see.
Rep. Chapa LaVia is the chief sponsor of HB5743, the Ultrasound Opportunity Act, which would require abortion providers to give every woman seeking an abortion an opportunity to view an ultrasound of her baby before going through with the procedure.
Given that Wednesdays are a very busy day for legislators, we had to pull Rep. Chapa LaVia off the House floor to come talk to us. Fortunately she was very responsive and came out very quickly to talk to us. As it happened, several others from her district were in the vicinity waiting to talk to her. She spent a good 15 minutes speaking with us and the other constituents and gave us her assurance that she would oppose “Illinois FOCA” and that she was encouraging her fellow Democrats to do the same.
Before she left, Rep. Chapa LaVia thanked Eric for all the work he has done in mobilizing the community, noting that it makes her job as a representative much easier to have an informed an active base of constituents.
Students for Life of Illinois to Lobby Committee Members
Next we joined John-Paul Deddens, President of Students for Life of Illinois, along with a group of students in delivering some materials on HB6205 to the Reps on the Human Services committee which is currently holding the bill and is likely to vote on it next week.
We took the sheet that the Catholic Conference of Illinois had provided to participants, highlighted the information on HB6205 and put our signatures on the sheet for a personal touch. Then we hand-delivered them with our group to each Rep’s office, making sure to be clear to the Rep or their assistant which bill we were there about and how we wanted the Rep to vote.
Such an incredible influx of Catholics raising their voices for life and justice had a huge effect on legislators last year and I have no doubt that Wednesday’s lobbying day did the same.
I can’t over emphasize the importance of these face to face visits with your representatives. I’d encourage you to find out what the important life issues are in your state government and make sure that your legislators hear your voice on them. You can make a difference, all you have to do is act!