As president of the US bishops conference, Cardinal Francis George
send a letter to President-elect Barack Obama after he won the
election, and another just before he was inaugurated. They expressed
goodwill and hope.

Now he’s written one to Illinois Catholics, expressing great concern
about the threat to the free exercise of conscience informed by faith,
if pending legislation in the state is allowed to pass.

Here’s the text:

Before the Illinois General Assembly there is a proposal
(HB 2354, the “Reproductive Health and Access Act”) that would remove
the right to conscientious objection to abortion and related procedures
for all health care workers. Thirty years ago, we were told that
abortion is a rare but necessary tragedy and that abortion providers
should not be legally punished. Today we are being told that abortion
is a human right and that those who qualify it in any manner or who
will not provide it should be legally punished.

Good and reasoned argument. Shows the incoherence of the abortion movement.

This proposed law will drive Catholic doctors and nurses
from health care and will make it impossible for Catholic hospitals to
continue to be places where life is always respected, where no one is
deliberately killed. In our country, we recognize conscientious
objection to war, even though defending one’s country is a noble and
moral act. We recognize the conscientious objection of those doctors
who will not cooperate in administering the death penalty, even for
terrible crimes. Why do some Illinois legislators want to take away
conscientious objection to abortion?

More Socratic reasoning. (George is a philosopher.) Would love to hear serious attempts to answer these questions.

The enemies of human life and religious freedom in
Illinois are well funded. Pressure on legislators is great and is
increasing. I ask you to contact your Representative this week to
express your dismay that the Illinois legislature, elected
democratically, would debate a bill that removes freedom of
conscientious decision-making for health care workers as a condition of
their employment. If, as we are told, the State should not come between
a doctor and a mother, then surely all can agree that the State should
not come between a health care worker and God.

Is even one politician responding to these great points?

We have, unfortunately, had to get used to the fact that
our laws no longer protect unborn human life; now we are to get used to
the fact that our laws will no longer protect conscience. In 1844,
Abraham Lincoln broke with his own party, the often anti-Catholic
Whigs, and proposed: “Resolved, that the guarantee of the rights of
conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and
inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the
Protestant; and that all attempts to abridge or interfere with these
rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, directly or indirectly, have
our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective
opposition.” Illinois HB 2354 betrays the legacy of Lincoln in his home
State.

And Obama’s home state. Which is all the more intriguing, because
Obama favors this move, and yet he highly admires and tries to emulate
Lincoln.

This proposed law will rend the already fragile garment
of our civic unity and further alienate many from our government.
Catholics and all people of good will should work to ensure its defeat.

And he concludes graciously…

I also ask you to thank those legislators who are courageously opposing HB 2354 and to pray for those who are supporting it.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....