CHICAGO (CNS) -- Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law an abortion bill that Illinois' Catholic bishops said eliminates "even minimal limitations on abortions under previous law" and whose passage by the legislature marked "a sad moment in our history as a state."

Pritzker signed the legislation June 12 in a ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center. His action "drew enthusiastic whoops and cheers from the crowd," The Washington Times reported.

Across the country in Vermont June 10, Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed a similarly expansive abortion measure into law. Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of the statewide Diocese of Burlington had said the law "goes far beyond Roe v. Wade."

In Illinois, as the abortion bill made its way through the Illinois House and Senate, the state's Catholic bishops called it the "misnamed 'Reproductive Health Act.'"

Catholic Conference of Illinois, the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops, labeled it "an extreme measure" because it allows "for the abortion of unborn life at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason." The conference said lawmakers' passage of the legislation was "a grave tragedy and a collective moral failing."

"We have worked to make the case for a consistent approach to human dignity in Illinois and will continue to do so, even as elected officials single out unborn persons for particular disregard," Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a June 1 statement.

Springfield Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki said June 6 that Catholic lawmakers in the Illinois Legislature "who promoted or voted for extreme abortion legislation" cannot receive Communion in churches in his diocese.

He specifically named House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton for their "leadership roles in promoting the evil of abortion by facilitating the passage" of what is now law.

Other Illinois Catholic lawmakers who voted for either of these abortion bills, he said, also are not to "present themselves to receive holy Communion."

In Vermont in February, Bishop Coyne had urged Catholics in the state to contact their state representatives and senators and urge them to vote no on the abortion measure.

Bishop Coyne said the Catholic faith teaches that all human life is sacred, "meaning 'of God'" -- from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death -- and that Catholics are called to embrace and protect that sacred gift.

"You are also aware that the teaching and ministry of the Catholic Church since the first century has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion," he added, quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. "This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law."

The president and CEO of Americans United for Life, Catherine Glenn Foster, said the organization is "profoundly disappointed" that Vermont and Illinois have "gone 'all in' for legalized abortion through all nine months of a developing human being's life in the womb."

"The abortion industry's only response to the recent tidal wave of hundreds of state laws designed to protect life and the mothers who bear it has been to stem its losses in states where political support for abortion is historically strong," she said in a June 13 statement.

She noted that while groups such as Planned Parenthood continue to advocate for legal abortion, "the abortion rate in America continues to fall to historically low levels as women discover that they -- as can their children -- can live without abortion."


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