Monthly Archives: April 2011

Legislative Update – Call Your Representatives!

SB 1619 Comprehensive Sex Education

The sponsor, Senator Heather Steans (D-7) got a deadline extension of May 4 for this legislation.  We are very close to garnering the 30 votes needed to pass it out of the Senate.  We cannot wait to generate calls, emails, and faxes tostate senators asking them to vote YES on SB 1619. Illinois youth need medically accurate and age appropriate information in order to make responsible decisions that will help them stay safe and healthy. The capitol switchboard is 217-782-2000.  A list of senators is available here: Click on the senator’s name to link to contact information.

The House deadline for passage of bills originating in the House was Friday, April 15.  Anti-choice legislation has stalled (with no deadline extensions) or has moved forward after having been positively amended.  We will carefully monitor legislative action for any attempts to revive anti-choice measures.


HB 786/HB 1919 – Ultrasound Mandate

The sponsor, Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-118), did not call HB 1919 for a hearing.  Instead, he moved HB 786 out of the Agriculture Committee.  He did not call it for a vote before the full House before the deadline.


HB 1144 – Broadening Definition of Homicide of an Unborn Child

The sponsor, Rep. Dan Brady (R-88), did not call this bill for a committee hearing.


HB 1569 – Abortion Restriction on Health Savings Accounts

Prior to passing out of committee the sponsor, Rep. Patti Bellock (R-47), amended the bill to remove the language restricting use of state employee health savings accounts to pay for abortion care.  This amendment resulted in our removing our opposition to the bill.  Bellock never called HB 1569 for a vote by the full House.


HB 2093 – Child Abuse Reporting

After HB 2093 passed out of the Agriculture Committee, the sponsor, Rep. David Reis (R-108) amended the bill with agreed language which allowed us to remove our opposition.  HB 2093 passed out of the House overwhelmingly and was sent to the Senate for consideration.  It is assigned for a hearing in the Human Services Committee.


HB 2321/HB3156 – ASTC Regulation Expansion

The sponsor, Rep. Darlene Senger (R-96), got both bills to the House floor.  After an amendment which would have broadened HB 2321 to apply to any facility that performed 50 or more of any type of surgery was approved for consideration, the sponsor decided not to call HB 2321.  Instead, she called HB 3156 for a vote.  It fell 3 votes short of passage.  Senger put the bill on “postponed consideration” which allows for a second chance at a vote. However, she did not request a second vote prior to the deadline.


HB 2988 – “Choose Life” License Plates

This bill, along with all other special license plate bills, was sent to the House State Government’s Special License Plate Subcomittee. It never had a hearing.

Chicago Abortion Fund Shows What Concern For Black Women Really Looks Like

This past Saturday, the Chicago Abortion Fund took action in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. They spent hours cleaning up lots in the community where billboards have been posted by a Texas-based anti-choice group called Life Always. We covered details of these billboards here.

NBC Chicago covered the details of the clean up action:

“The Chicago Abortion Fund‘s Executive Director, Gaylon Alcaraz, said the cleanup was a symbolic effort to highlight that her group and others are committed to improving the community. The same group protested the arrival of the billboards earlier this month, predicting the group which sponsors the ads wouldn’t invest in the community. “People from outside of this community come into this community for shock value and a little news attention,” she said at the time.  “Then they’ll leave and they won’t do anything for these communities.””

Following the clean up, Chicago Abortion Fund volunteers distributed information on women’s healthcare and low-cost birth control options, which Alcaraz said is the responsibility of community groups.

But Life Always continues to defend the billboard campaign:

“Pastor Stephen Broden said Obama’s face was specifically chosen to target African-Americans on the city’s South Side because it’s where the disparity in abortion rates is occurring. “The highest level of success obtained by any African-American has been obtained by Barack Obama,” he said.  “We’re simply saying to the community that we could be aborting the next leader of the free world. The next person who can contribute to humanity.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women accounted for more than 36 percent of U.S. abortions in 2007, the second highest in the nation. Broden said he stands by his group’s “confrontational truths” because of those statistics. “We’re being accused of race baiting. But the numbers are irrefutable and undeniable,” Broden said.  “I’m an African-American, and we’re coming to the black community because we are a part of the black community.””

The Boston Herald also covered the story. Roxy Trudeau of the Women’s Health Center was quoted in the article saying: “Several people in my life have had abortions, and people I don’t know need access to abortions,” she said. “It’s their choice and it’s their body.”

Roxy and Gaylon have it right. Chicago Abortion Fund has taken the courageous step of taking real action in the communities of Chicago that have been targeted by the Texas-based Life Always group. These outsider anti-choice groups need to hear from the people in these communities directly and from black women themselves. They do a disservice to these communities by ignoring the realities of their lives and the choices they have a right to make over their own bodies and for their own families.

Black Women for Reproductive Justice is planning five Black Women’s Speakouts. The first will be Wednesday, May 18, 2010, 6pm-8pm at the Chicago Park District, Jackson Park, 6401 South Stony Island Avenue.  The City of Chicago’s
Advisory Council on Women has graciously agreed to co-host this event. They will be helping to pull together local, county, and state resource information to hand out at the speakout. There will be space available for other groups to participate, and they are looking for organizations who would like to co-sponsor this event.

In the meantime, check out this helpful map created by BWRJ to track the racist anti-choice billboards popping up across Chicago.


Illinois Judge Says Pharmacists Can Refuse To Dispense Morning-After Pill

In a surprising overturn of a 6-year Illinois state rule that required pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz ruled last week on Tuesday, April 5th that the pharmacists were protected by the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act and the First Amendment of the Constitution when they refuse to perform services on moral or religious grounds.

The Huffington Post has more:

“And now, Judge Belz has sided with the plaintiffs, who argue that the pill is tantamount to abortion and violates their religious beliefs, says the Sun-Times.

Of course, this is a somewhat contentious claim. Plan B is distinct from RU-486, the abortion pill. In most if not all cases, Plan B acts by preventing ovulation, according to the FDA. In some cases, it interferes with fertilization of the egg. And studies from the 1970 and ’80s suggested that there was some chance that the pill kept a newly-fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterine wall.

This last possibility provoked the outrage of hard-line anti-abortion activists, who believe that life begins at fertilization, and that the emergency contraceptive is therefore a very early form of abortion in those cases. But a slew of recent studies suggest that Plan B actually does not interfere with implantation.”

According to USA Today, “Attorney Mark Rienzi, who represented the pharmacists with the help of the American Center for Law and Justice, called the ruling “a very good thing.”

“The judge’s decision makes clear that religious people don’t have to give up their religion, don’t have to check their conscience at the door, to enter the health care profession,” Rienzi said.

Belz said Blagojevich’s ruling was unconstitutional and ran afoul of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Well that’s very convenient – so for the pharmacists, whose job entails dispensing legal medications to individuals, religious freedom goes so far as to allow them to not do their jobs. For the individuals who need the medications, however, their religious freedom (or freedom from religion, as it were) is apparently irrelevant.

Do you think this handy-dandy “moral” excuse would be applicable to pharmacists with non-Christian religious or moral beliefs? Or would this religious freedom mantra come to a screeching halt at the mere mention of the Koran or other religious text as the basis for refusing to do one’s job?

And at what point does this ‘religious freedom’ for the pharmacist end? If the pharmacist believes that all sex is wrong, would he be allowed to refuse to dispense all birth control prescriptions (not knowing the woman may even be taking birth control pills for non-contraceptive purposes)? How about Viagra? Or what if that pharmacist decides there should be no intervention in “God’s plan” – will that pharmacist still be able to keep his job while refusing to prescribe just about any medication? According to this judge’s ruling, the answer should be yes – if he is to be consistent. But we know this ruling would not apply to refusing to dispense Viagra, or any other legal medication that is not relevant to a woman’s reproduction or sex life.

Because this isn’t about religion. The Bible makes no mention of the morning-after pill (or abortion for that matter), and medicine has not shown that the morning-after pill affects a woman who is already pregnant in any way. This is about controlling women.

Robin Marty at RH Reality Check uncovers the religious right’s hypocrisy on the morning-after pill ruling by highlighting another bill working through the Illinois legislature:

“Meanwhile, Catholic groups in the state are also pushing to force women seeking abortions to have to have mandatory ultrasounds and provide them to pregnant women prior to the procedure as a “courtesy.”  According to the Chicago Tribune:

[Catholic Conference of Illinois] would like to require women to view ultrasounds when considering abortion, but it says that wouldn’t pass in Illinois.

Opponents say the legislation would create an unnecessary hour of waiting time that is meant to be used to change a woman’s mind about the abortion.

Less prevention, more restrictions. Sounds right.”

This is not about preventing abortion, the well-being or health of the woman or potential child. Allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense the morning-after pill, a pill which would prevent the need for a future abortion, while mandating an ultrasound and additional hour of waiting time to essentially emotionally bully the woman into not having an abortion – as it will reveal nothing the woman doesn’t already know about her being pregnant especially after the counseling provided before the abortion – shows the true motivations behind the anti-choice crowd. They do not trust women to make sound medical decisions with their doctors over their own bodies, but it appears to go even farther than that. They want to control IF the woman becomes pregnant in the first place by refusing to dispense emergency contraception that would prevent the need for an abortion. It seems that they can’t decide whether pregnancy is a punishment for sex or a gift from God.

Either way, there’s little doubt that they want to force pregnancy on women – even if they’re not pregnant yet.



More info on SB1123: Call IL Senators NOW!

Please call IL state senators NOW: 217-782-3944

Windy City Times reports:

“An amendment to a proposed bill in the Illinois Senate states that “a child welfare agency that is religiously based or owned by, operated by, or affiliated with a bona fide religious organization may decline an adoption or foster family home application … from a party to a civil union if acceptance of that application would constitute a violation of the organization’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”

SB 1123, the bill including this amendment No. 65, means that unmarried straight or gay couples in civil unions who do not share the religious values or faith of the organization could be denied the chance to adopt or be foster parents.”

Phil Reese at The Bilerico Project also expands:

“Religious institutions would be able to discriminate in these matters against anyone for any religiously motivated reason. Race, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, it doesn’t matter.”

Phil also adds:

“Right now we really need:

  • Catholic families against injustice
  • Folks raised by same-sex parents who live in Illinois
  • Same-sex headed families willing to stand up and be heard

Get on the phone right this moment and ask for your Illinois Senator at 217-782-3944″



Urgent Action Alert


Tell Senate Executive Committee to VOTE NO on Senate Amendment 1 to SB 1123!

Senate Bill 1123 Amendment 1 by Senator Koehler amends the Civil Union Act to allow religiously affiliated child welfare agencies to discriminate against parties to a civil union and to refer the parties to a civil union to DCFS  for information concerning non-discriminatory child welfare agencies for adoption or foster family home applications, licensure and placements. A fact sheet from the ACLU is attached.

This amendment will be heard in the Senate Executive Committee early Wednesday morning (4/13/11). Call these members of the Committee NOW and URGE THEM TO VOTE NO TO DISCRIMINATION! Call all the members of the Committee by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 217-782-2000 and ask for the Senator’s office. You can leave a message with their staff.  

Chairperson : Don Harmon D
Vice-Chairperson : Ira I. Silverstein D
Member: James F. Clayborne, Jr. D
Member: M. Maggie Crotty D
Member: John J. Cullerton D
Member: Kimberly A. Lightford D
Member: Antonio Muñoz D
Member: Jeffrey M. Schoenberg D
Member: Donne E. Trotter D
Minority Spokesperson : Dale A. Righter R
Member: Bill Brady R
Member: John O. Jones R
Member: David S. Luechtefeld R
Member: Matt Murphy R
Member: Christine Radogno R


Equal Pay Day

Today is Equal Pay Day, the day that marks the wage gap – the number of days into the year women have to work, in addition to last year, to earn the same amount of money men made last year alone. The wage gap is currently at 77% for Caucasian women. That means for every $1 a Caucasian man earns for full-time year-round work, a Caucasian woman makes .77 for full-time year-round work, with African-American women making only 62 cents, and Latinas only 53 cents. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has a FAQs section on Equal Pay Day for additional reading.

But why does this wage gap still exist?

The Ms. blog covered one explanation:

“One major reason is job segregation by sex. Jobs themselves are gendered, such that women have a tendency to enter feminized occupations and men have a tendency to enter masculinized occupations. How severe is job segregation by sex? In 2010, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported that about about 4 in 10 women work in jobs that are 75 percent female; the reverse is true for men.”

The above chart illustrates the occupational segregation in the U.S. since 1972. Although we see a dip in the 1970s and 80s, the lines appear to not be changing much since the early to mid 90s.

But the Institute for Women’s Policy Research has the following to note:

“Women’s earnings and employment by industry, 2009 (Bureau of Labor Statistics), shows women’s earnings broken down by occupation.  This chart underscores the fact that, even in industries where women are well-represented in the workforce, a gender wage gap still exists. For example, more women are employed in “education & health services” than in any other category included in the chart, yet women in this industry still only earn 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn.”

They also project that wage equity won’t be achieved until 2056.

So we still have a long way to go. What can you do about it? Well, you may have already heard that there will be rally today at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago. You can also call your state and U.S. representatives – has a form here to contact your U.S. Senators about supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Or, you can form a dancing flash mob like these women did for equal pay!


Racist Anti-Choice Billboards Arrive In Chicago

Chicago Foundation for Women reports on the arrival of these billboards in Chicago:

Digital image of the billboard

“Three identical billboards near 58th and State say, “Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted,” next to a photo of President Obama.

Spokespeople for Life Always, the group behind the billboards, say they want to highlight the fact that African American women have a higher abortion rate than Caucasian women by running 30 billboards in communities of color. They say this message is supposed to help women.”

But we know that telling women what decisions they “should” be making with their lives and bodies does not help women. It treats women (in this case, black women specifically) like they are unable to make sound medical decisions for themselves, and that they require a “morally superior” group to tell them what the “right” thing to do is – as if any person or group has the authority on right and wrong. It’s just one more way that conservative religious groups have found to attack poor women in our country in an attempt to take way the services needed most.

Here’s a statement from an article in Today’s Chicago Woman from Cherisse Scott of Black Women for Reproductive Justice and Carole Brite of Planned Parenthood of Illinois:

“The billboards have been placed in the black community with a picture of the first black president stating that black women are murderers of potential black leaders,” says Cherisse Scott, a health educator and campaigns coordinator with Black Women for Reproductive Justice. “The billboards vilify black women for making the very hard decision of whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. To say that a black child is not safe in his or her mother’s womb is not only racist, but heinous.”

“The sponsors of these billboards are using race as a wedge issue to deny women the ability to make important personal medical decisions,” adds Carole Brite, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “…These billboards are offensive and disturbing. This is harmful to women in every community who need quality, affordable health care.”

We couldn’t agree more. And a big thanks to BWRJ and the Chicago Abortion Fund for their work in the community against these racist anti-choice billboards.

We’re Official!

Illinois NOW has officially launched our blog, and we couldn’t be more excited! Our desire to reach out and communicate with the world and hear what feminists around Illinois care about and are fighting for have brought us to the best the internet has to offer in the way of communication: blogging! Hopefully you’ve already found us on Facebook and Twitter, where we also love communicating.

We hope  you like the new blog, and we encourage your thoughts and comments. Please keep in mind that we will be moderating and approving comments before we allow them to post. We want this blog to be a safe space for everyone involved. We will not allow hateful, dismissive, derailing comments – that includes any comments that contain -isms (racism, sexism, ageism, any homophobic, transphobic, sizeist or ableist comments), any topics that are not relevant to the post, personal attacks, and just plain dismissive or condescending remarks.

Other than that, post away!