It was a few years ago when the city council in Lockport, Ill., was set to give formal approval to a resolution praising the charitable work done by the United Way when one of the aldermen insisted on turning the symbolic gesture into a political stink.
That particular alderman in the Will County city of nearly 24,000 people was heavily influenced by his religion – he was Catholic. He also was determined to use the resolution to make a public statement against the concept of abortion being legal in the United States.
HE ADAMANTLY REFUSED to let his colleagues take a vote on the measure until he was personally given assurances that the United Way chapter that served his hometown did not provide any financial support to women’s health clinics that made abortion of pregnancy available.
In the end, the resolution passed (the chapters in Will County did not provide any financial aid that could be tied directly to abortion-related services) and the alderman in question piped down – having made his point.
What makes me recall this moment from my reporter past (I was writing for a newspaper at the time and I covered the hearing when this happened) is that there’s a good chance we’re going to see similar outbursts all across Illinois in coming months.
The Glen Ellyn-based Illinois Family Institute (somehow, I’m on their e-mail list) distributed a commentary written by a Peoria-based pastor who wants everybody to start cracking down on the United Way chapter in their hometown to make a statement against abortion.
REV. JAMES McDONALD, in his commentary, said his problem with United Way is that local chapters across Illinois make donations to Planned Parenthood – the long-demonized group that operates health clinics (some of which make abortion-related services available) and provides other services meant to help women who are pregnant.
Since United Way chapters provide their financial help to a common Planned Parenthood fund for Illinois, that means indirectly, every United Way chapter is providing aid to the local Planned Parenthood facilities that offer abortions, even if the ones in their local hometowns do not.
Or, as McDonald chooses to see it, financial donations to United Way from rural residents are being used to support the, “large abortion clinics in Aurora, Champaign and Chicago.”
“I encourage you to end your support of any organization that gives monies to the cause of darkness,” McDonald wrote. “Should a Christian support any organization or any candidate who endorses this modern-day holocaust?”
I COULD NITPICK against the attempt to dredge up Third Reich imagery through use of the word “holocaust” by pointing out that in Nazi Germany, the government of Adolf Hitler was vehemently opposed to abortion, and actually considered it to be a capital crime by doctors and (on occasion) the pregnant women themselves.
But giving in to the overly hysterical rhetoric of the anti-abortion right does not accomplish much.
What really disgusts me about this plea couched in religious terms is that it is a blatant attempt by rural activists to impose their view on the issue across the state. If anything, that viewpoint is already too prevalent.
Many health care professionals see the issue of abortion access as being one of it not being easy enough to obtain. Abortion services are not equally available to all of Illinois’ residents.
ANY WOMAN WHO lives outside the Chicago area (with the exception of those living in Champaign, or perhaps Bloomington/Normal or Springfield) is going to have a hard time finding a local clinic where the medical procedure (and that’s exactly what it is) can be obtained under safe conditions.
A woman who desires to end a pregnancy is either going to have to make a lengthy trip to a strange place, or accept the fact that her rights deriving from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in “Roe vs. Wade” do not apply to her because of where she lives.
Too many of the local officials in rural communities are willing to use their political influence to keep women’s health clinics and other services out of their areas. Perhaps that is their right. But it is silly for them to start thinking they can somehow impact the services made available in those “wicked places” such as Aurora or Champaign.
THEY WANT THE pressure put on United Way chapters to make their abortion-related statement, even though many do not provide any direct aid to women’s clinics. And the idea that ties between various chapters of a common organization is somehow insidious strikes me more as being ridiculous.
If anything, I wonder how much these people would be complaining about Planned Parenthood if their chapters in different cities and towns made no effort to work together. I can already hear the rhetoric lambasting the organization’s fundraising efforts as doing little more than paying for wasteful administrative expenses.
The same thing can be said about the limited cooperation that takes place between United Way chapters across the state. Reducing money spent on bureaucracy does not mean a scary organization is looming over the Land of Lincoln.
I’M HOPING UNITED Way chapters manage to stand firm against the verbal barrage they will be hit with in coming months. Because I have no doubt the rhetoric will become ugly. For what it is worth, Rev. McDonald has copy written that he will make available to anyone who wants to use it to write nasty letters to their local United Way chapter.
I recall the Will County United Way officials from a few years back thought it incredulous that anyone seriously thought they were providing direct assistance to abortion.
I would hope that same attitude prevails today.
EDITOR’S NOTES: Perhaps I need to quit reading my e-mails from the Illinois Family Institute (http://www.illinoisfamily.org/news/contentview.asp?c=33945) so as to avoid reading rubbish such as this commentary.
Access to abortion related medical (http://www.abortionaccess.org/content/view/59/62/) services depend heavily on where one lives.
Mention the name “Planned Parenthood,” and you are destined to provoke a verbal (http://www.thebulletin.us/site/index.cfm?newsid=19751893&BRD=2737&PAG=461&dept_id=576361&rfi=8) brawl.
Planned Parenthood relies on far more than the United Way to raise money to pay (http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB121417762585295459-lMyQjAxMDI4MTI0MzEyNzM3Wj.html) for the services it makes available to women.