In this Jan. 3, 2013, file photo Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Springfield Catholic diocese, testifies during a Senate Executive committee hearing at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield Ill. Paprocki has banned the Catholic heads of the Illinois General Assembly, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, and any other state lawmakers who voted for statutory protections for abortion from receiving communion at Mass at churches in the Springfield diocese. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

Illinois Bishop Threatens Prochoice Lawmakers

In June, Illinois governor Jay Robert “J. B.” Pritzker signed into law the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), which repealed older restrictions and established “a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about one’s own reproductive health” in the state.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decree vowing to refuse Holy Communion to any lawmakers who supported the legislation until such time as they publicly rescinded said support and proposed legislation to repeal the RHA.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.

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