SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CNS) -- In a 64-50 vote May 28, the Illinois House passed an abortion bill the Catholic Conference of Illinois called "an extreme measure" that allows "for the abortion of unborn life at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason."

The legislation now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

"The decision of the Illinois House of Representatives to take up and pass the so-called Reproductive Health Act is a grave tragedy and a collective moral failing," said a statement from the Catholic conference, which is the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops.

"Illinois has previously distinguished itself by recognizing and upholding human dignity," the conference said. "It has welcomed and defended the rights of immigrants and refugees and eliminated the death penalty. It is therefore incomprehensible to us that the General Assembly has prioritized denying protection to the most vulnerable among us by enacting some of the most liberal abortion access laws in the nation."

Two days ahead of the vote, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, who heads the Chicago Archdiocese, and the bishops who head the state's other five dioceses, urged state lawmakers not to act on "the misnamed 'Reproductive Health Act,' which they said was the result of efforts by lawmakers to "propel the legislation into the end-of-session rush."

The bishops in their statement said the version of the bill that was introduced "rewrites current abortion law, going further than Roe v. Wade in stripping human rights and dignity from the unborn child with this single statement: 'A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of this state.'"

"The fundamental premise of the bill is flawed, and no amendment or tweak to the language will change the fact that it is designed to rob the vulnerable life in the womb of any trace of human dignity and value," the bishops said.

Instead of rushing the bill through before the May 31 end of the legislative session, the bishops had urged the lawmakers to set aside consideration of it, "especially since no final form of the bill has been published, vetted through hearings or fully discussed."

Instead, they said, action on several major issues required "bipartisan cooperation and unity," including passing "a balanced budget for the health, education and safety of Illinois residents and crafting a statewide construction plan with unresolved funding."

"Conversations on these matters need to take place in an atmosphere of comity and civility and any talk of abortion will only sow more divisiveness and disharmony in today’s polarized political climate," the bishops said.

In its statement, the Illinois Catholic Conference called it "a truly sad day for Illinois."

Supporters of the abortion bill "portrayed it as a simple cleanup bill, taking old statutes off the books," it said. "This is false. The bill includes new provisions that render any regulation of abortion impossible, strip away standards for -- and regulation of -- clinics where abortions are performed, and mandate private insurance plans subject to Illinois’ authority cover abortion."

"It sends a message to everyone in our state that life is cheap," the conference said, adding, "We will continue to make our case against such callous disregard for human life whenever it appears in society."


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