Diocesan Delegation Talks Life in Capitol
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
April 4, 2019
SPRINGFIELD—It was a busy day March 20 at the State Capitol as an estimated 4,000 pro-life advocates from around Illinois gathered to lobby their elected officials and participate in an afternoon rally against bills that are moving through the House and Senate that would radically deregulate and encourage abortions in Illinois.
In a related effort that same morning, 420 Catholics from four dioceses (Rockford, Springfield, Peoria and Belleville) gathered in the nearby Howlett Building at 10 a.m. to begin a Life Advocacy Day sponsored by the Catholic Conference of Illinois. 
The Diocese of Rockford provided 260 of those volunteer lobbyists who carpooled on their own or rode on three buses chartered by the diocese that departed from Rockford, Elgin and Batavia and one chartered by Newman Central Catholic High School.
Donna Moore, director of the Office for Pro-Life Activities and Special Ministries of the Springfield Diocese, welcomed them and explained the logistics of the day including efforts being made to provide lunch for this year’s record advocacy day crowd. 
“This (crowd) will be hard to ignore,” Moore said later.
Zachary Wichmann, director of government relations for CCI, encouraged groups of three to four people to work together. 
Each registrant received a folder with the names and office numbers of senators and representatives, maps of the Stratton  office building and the Capitol, personalized “business cards” and flyers with key points of the abortion bills to leave with senators and representatives or their staffers.
Wichmann gave conversation pointers and provided an update on the bills, which he described as being the “most extreme pieces of abortion legislation ever in this State ... well beyond Roe v. Wade.” 
A couple parts are rumored to be changing, but even if they are changed or eliminated, the bills have plenty more to protest, he said. (See box, page 5.)
If the bills are passed, Illinois will be the only state in the Midwest that doesn’t require parental notification, Wichmann said. Every abuser in surrounding states will bring their victims to Illinois for abortions, he added.
Calling the bills “tragic and horrible,” he then sent the lobbyists to seek out their legislators and urge them to vote no on the bills.
The volunteers packed hallways, tunnels, staircases, elevators and offices as they tracked down room numbers. 
Results were mixed, with some elected officials available, others in session or in meetings –—and a few appeared to be hiding.
Freshman Democratic representative Maurice West of Rockford was in his office, and he quickly found himself listening to several groups of his constituents, one after another.
Six people replaced a group of four in his office. One woman cited the movie “Gosnell” as a true-story illustration of what can happen without enforced health standards for abortion facilities. 
A nurse told about women she’s treated who suffer in various ways from their abortions. 
A priest talked about his experiences counselling post-abortive women. 
One mother protested the bills’ quest to remove any parental notification, and another person recommended that Rep. West watch the movie “Unplanned” to learn the truth about abortion. The movie was released March 28.
The previous group had already given West the bills’ fact sheets, so the six simply gave him identification cards with their contact information. 
As they left, three of Freeport’s “blue nuns” — Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary — filed in to voice their concern about the bills and tell Rep. West about their Madonna House — a newly-opened ministry to pregnant women in need.
After visiting offices and communicating their protests and information, the volunteers had a pizza lunch provided by the Springfield Diocese, which ordered “as many pizzas as possible” from vendors who delivered the pizzas in two trips.
The Capitol Rotunda was quickly at capacity for a 1:30 p.m. Pro-Life Rally hosted by the Illinois Right to Life Action, the Pro-Life Action League and the Illinois Family Institute. 
It became so packed that security guards stopped letting people into the building if they were there for the rally.
Scheduled speakers included those from rally hosts, two State representatives, a post-abortive mother from Silent No More, a nearby pregnancy center staffer, a Bible church pastor, and Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki whose talk incorporated the imagery of David and Goliath. 
Capitol acoustics rendered the talks incomprehensible for the many that ringed the rotunda on the second and third floors, at times three or more people deep. 
Even so, the crowds and thunderous cheers surely made an impact on legislators and their staffs, some of whom took to the tunnel system to get from one side of the rotunda to the other. 
One man in a business suit walking under the rotunda told his guess of 5,000 people to his friend. An estimate of 4,000 people was provided by the Secretary of State’s office.
On April 3, volunteers from the Archdiocese of Chicago and Diocese of Joliet are scheduled to participate in a second Life Advocacy Day to lobby their senators and representatives.