Statement of Catholic Citizens of Illinois on SB#1564, Health Care Right of Conscience Act

From the Board of Directors of Catholic Citizens of Illinois

In an act of insufferable arrogance, the Illinois Senate has passed SB#1564.  The bill purports to require all “medical personnel” who don’t provide abortion “services” to refer their patients to someone who does.  The bill continues to undergo amendments.

But amendments can’t cure the problem. The bill is intended to require Catholic “medical personnel” to act against their religious convictions, and thus an inexcusable and unacceptable attempt to coerce consciences.

Catholics do not derive our consciences from the Illinois General Assembly.  Freedom of Religion, the first freedom enshrined in the First Amendment, and in the Illinois Constitution, prohibits the government from violating our unalienable right not to be coerced in matters of faith. The right to freedom of religion is a human right, conferred on us by our Creator, and not by the Federal Government, the State of Illinois or even by our religious authorities.

Some state that they are “neutral” towards the bill.  But for Catholics, “neutrality” in the face of an intrinsic evil is never an option.  Just one year after the Roe v. Wade decision, in 1974, the Vatican issued the Declaration on Procured Abortion which described “abortion and infanticide as abominable crimes.”  Pope Paul VI, speaking on many occasions declared this teaching “unchanged and unchangeable.”

More recently, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reaffirmed long standing Catholic theology which denounces abortion as “intrinsically evil” and therefore “non-negotiable.”

And in Evangelli Gaudium, his most recent Apostolic Exhortation, citing Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis stated that:

“[T]his defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, “every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual”[1]

Specifically applied to the field of health care, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, our Catholic Bishops teach that:

1.Catholic care organizations are not permitted to engage in immediate material cooperation in actions that are intrinsically immoral, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and direct sterilization.

2. The possibility of scandal must be considered when applying the principals governing cooperation.[2] Cooperation which in all other respects is morally licit may need to be refused because of the scandal that might be caused.[3]

Given these long-settled Catholic precepts, how could any Catholic, in good conscience, comply with a law that our faith and our leadership teaches is immoral?

The answer is obvious: those advocating for this legislation know that we cannot.

[1] John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (30 December 1988), 37: AAS 81 (1989), 461, at

[2] See: Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil (no. 2284): “Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads other to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged.” (no. 2287).

[3] Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Fifth Edition.


Morals in medicine

 Senate passes “right of conscience” bill after harrowing testimony

Illinois Times

Patrick Yeagle

Mindy Swank of Chicago grew up in a conservative household – both religiously and politically – so when her pregnancy went wrong, it was a difficult decision to have an abortion.

She and her husband, Adam, were excited to have their second child, she told an Illinois Senate legislative panel at the Capitol in March, but their doctors informed them the child likely wouldn’t survive. Having the child, they were told, could hurt Mindy’s ability to have future children and possibly endanger her life. Instead of receiving the abortion, however, Mindy endured a dangerous, weeks-long miscarriage.

Mindy told her story to the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee on March 17, testifying about a bill that could have prevented her ordeal. The bill passed the full Senate on April 23 and awaits a vote in the House. . . [Full text]

Illinois Senate approves health-care conscience update

Chicago Business

(AP) — A measure requiring physicians to spell out a patient’s options even if they’re objectionable to the doctor has received Senate approval.

The 34-19 vote sends to the House the plan by Evanston Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss. It would change a 1977 law that allows health care providers to refuse to perform medical procedures they find morally objectionable. . . [Full Text]


Bill would make Catholic hospitals tell patients about options elsewhere

Chicago Tribune

Manya Brachear Pashman

Angela Valavanis, shown with her children Ariana, 5, left, and Dylan, 23 months, and husband Stel, learned minutes before Dylan’s delivery that her hospital would not be able to provide the tubal ligation she had requested months earlier in the event of a cesarean section because the procedure would violate Catholic teachings.

A measure before Illinois lawmakers would require Roman Catholic hospitals to tell patients they can go elsewhere for birth control, certain medical procedures and other health care choices that violate church teachings.

The proposal would amend the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act, which generally allows workers and institutions to deny services for religious and ethical reasons. And while it would apply to all hospitals in Illinois, it’s particularly relevant for Catholic hospitals, which handle more than 1 in 4 admissions statewide. . . [Full text]

Agreement reached on conscience rights

Catholic Conference of Illinois

Last month, we posted about an attack on the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act in the form of Senate Bill 1564.

The Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act allows medical personnel and health care facilites to avoid participating in medical procedures — such as abortion, sterilization, and certain end-of-life care — that violate their beliefs and values.

The original form of Senate Bill 1564 easily passed a Democratic-led Senate committee on a 7-3 vote.

The Catholic Conference of Illinois and the Illinois Catholic Health Association worked to modify this bill to protect the conscience protections of doctors, hospitals, and health care facilities. The original  form of Senate Bill 1564 mandated referrals and had a section stating that if there is a delay in the provision of health care there is no conscience right. We could not allow that to happen, especially since the sponsor of the legislation had the votes to pass SB 1564 in its original form after it had passed committee.

We reached an agreement with the bill’s sponsor that reflects the current medical practices in Catholic hospitals. Catholic health care ethicists and Catholic hospital lawyers participated in the negotiations.

We are now taking a neutral stance regarding Senate Bill 1564. A neutral stance means that we neither support nor oppose the bill.


Bill OK’d by committee would give more information to patients

The State Journal Register

Doug Finke, State Capitol Bureau

A bill designed to ensure patients are given treatment information when their health-care providers invoke the state’s Right of Conscience Act was approved by the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

Under Senate Bill 1564, health-care providers would be required to establish written protocols that provide patients with information about the treatment options available and how they can get access to those options. [Full text]