Letters & Op-Eds 2017

LETTERS: As Catholics and mothers, we support abortion rights bill

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

This article was originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times.

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