From the Desk of Senator Brian W. Stewart (March 22): “Our Communities Need Your Help”

This past week, Stephenson and Winnebago Counties were rocked by record flooding.  County Board Chairmen in both counties issued disaster emergency proclamations.  If you haven’t seen the pictures, some streets were entirely submerged by water.  I’ve heard friends who couldn’t even see their apartment door because the water was so high.  Almost 200 residents have been evacuated and hundreds of homes and businesses have been effected.

While I was in Springfield, Governor Pritzker joined Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) officials to survey the damage.  The state has provided 234,000 sand bags, 125 rolls of plastic and 16 pumps.  I want to thank the Governor for his commitment to “do everything we can,” and that “every resource that can be brought to bear is being brought to bear.”

We need to help too.  We should help – and we can help.  Yesterday, Stephenson County told us how, asking for flood relief volunteers to help staff the phones at the Emergency Operations Center, to monitor radio communications, to help serve food, to help cleaning for those who can’t do it on their own, and to provide support at the donation center.

I understand some of us are busy.  Families, jobs, bills, school, the hours fly by fast.  I know how hard it is to create time to help.  I also agree with Ghandi’s encouragement for us to, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  I believe the most effective way to make the world better is – us.  It’s from the ground up.  Here’s the number, 815-233-4757.  Call it.  Let’s be the miracle.

The 101st General Assembly has seen its own metaphorical flood this session.  Over 6,500 bills have been filed; easily more than double the average in an odd numbered session year.  The more significant issue is how few of these bills have gone through the process.  Many of these bills are truly terrible ideas, and it is getting harder and harder to prove it because we have so many bills left to pass and fewer and fewer session days left.  It’s as though the legislative soda bottle is being shaken again and again.  If we’re not careful when we open it, all we’ll have is a big mess.

Some of the most outrageous bills that are making their way through the General Assembly are the abortion bills.  A majority of the calls, letters, and messages I’ve received recently have been against these bills.  After reviewing the bills, I confidently replied that I will be voting NO.

One of these bills has already advanced out of the Public Health Committee.  Senate Bill 1594 repeals the Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995 (750 ILCS 70) including Section 5 which reads,

The General Assembly finds that notification of a family member as defined in this Act is in the best interest of an unemancipated minor, and the General Assembly’s purpose in enacting this parental notice law is to further and protect the best interests of an unemancipated minor.

The medical, emotional, and psychological consequences of abortion are sometimes serious and long-lasting, and immature minors often lack the ability to make fully informed choices that consider both the immediate and long-range consequences.

Parental consultation is usually in the best interest of the minor and is desirable since the capacity to become pregnant and the capacity for mature judgment concerning the wisdom of an abortion are not necessarily related.

Repealing this law just doesn’t make sense.  A 12 year old needs a parent’s or guardian’s approval to go on field trips or participate in school sports.  They need their approval to get a tattoo, their ears pierced or to use a tanning booth.  They need their approval to miss a day of school or their parents can get in serious trouble!  Do we really believe abolishing parental notification is in our daughters’ best interest?  While pondering that question, we should ask another.  If “parental consultation” is not “usually in the best interest of the minor,” then what is?

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Senate Bill 1942, which is currently in the Executive Committee, goes even farther.  Right now, abortions have to be performed by doctors.  SB1942 abolishes that requirement.  And as I understand it, the bill also threatens the right of conscience for medical providers and facilities.  Many of you remember how Catholic pharmacists were forced to dispense abortifacients during the Blagojevich administration.  Imagine what will happen to Catholic doctors, Catholic hospitals if SB1942 passes!

That’s not all.  SB1942 repeals the Partial Birth Abortion Ban.  For those who know, partial birth abortion is a heinous procedure.  For those who don’t, I won’t go into more detail than that.  The legislation remains in the Senate Executive Committee.  Witness slips are not available yet. You can fill out witness slips against the House version of the bill, HB2495 on the General Assembly website, ilga.gov.

This past week the Illinois Right to Life organization held a “Rally in the Rotunda” during the Pro-Life Rally Lobby Day, for supporters to voice their opposition to the abortion bills.  The turnout was much larger than expected.  Almost 4,000 people crowded the first floor of the Capitol, filling it to capacity.  We need to keep fighting.  These pieces of legislation are not common sense solutions to help working families, or advance women’s rights.  They need to be opposed at each and every turn.

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can visit my website at senatorstewart.com and use the form to send me an e-mail.