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Conscience Magazine

Illinois Bishop Threatens Prochoice Lawmakers

By Conscience September 18, 2019

In June, Illinois governor Jay Robert “J. B.” Pritzker signed into law the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), which repealed older restrictions and established “a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about one’s own reproductive health” in the state. The bill, passed by the Illinois General Assembly in response to the slew of restrictive laws intended to challenge Roe v. Wade in more conservative states, also established that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights.”

Bishop Thomas Paprocki, who oversees the Springfield, Illinois, diocese, issued a decree vowing to refuse Holy Communion to any lawmakers who supported the legislation until such time as they publicly rescinded said support and proposed legislation to repeal the RHA. (Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich did not support the law but also did not see denial of sacraments as a constructive response, thus following the example of most US bishops in recent years.) Paprocki had warned House Speaker Michael Madigan of his intentions before the vote was held, but Madigan said he was not dissuaded, stating, “I believe it is more important to protect a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions.”

Catholics for Choice responded to the controversy with a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune and other area papers that applauded Catholic lawmakers in Illinois for refusing to be influenced by the bishops’ threats.


Offers in-depth, cutting-edge coverage of vital contemporary issues, including reproductive rights, sexuality and gender, feminism, the religious right, church and state and US politics. Our readership includes national and international opinion leaders and policymakers, members of the press and leaders in the fields of theology, ethics and women's studies.