“A new and vibrant culture of life is being established in our nation after decades of death caused by Roe v. Wade,” the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Brent Leatherwood said at the one-year anniversary of overturning Roe in June. “That is worth celebrating.”
Culture of life? In other states perhaps, but not here. Not in Illinois.
Our state government continues to position Illinois as a haven for “reproductive health,” which is in reality a culture of death.
In the year since the U.S. Supreme Court ended national abortion regulation as we knew it since 1971, 25 states have halted or severely limited abortion access. Some others, such as ours, expanded abortion access. And the result is an onslaught of new abortion clinics, state funding to end pregnancies, and mass migration of out-of-state residents for the procedures. They call it “abortion tourism.” And in the middle of the nation, Illinois is the destination.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois reports 54% more women coming to the state for abortions, from 34 states where abortion is banned or limited. And small cities such as Carbondale are prime examples where multiple providers have relocated near state lines and interstate highways. Carbondale now has three abortion clinics, where there were none until recently. Women come from 11 pro-life, mostly Southern states to the downstate Illinois town to terminate their pregnancies.
But it’s happening all over Illinois. With 29 to 40 abortion facilities in 2020, depending on who’s counting, there are many untallied new providers here who market Illinois as a “sanctuary state” for “abortion refugees.”
While Brentwood talks about a culture of life, he recognizes that “important work remains as abortion providers and the drug manufacturing industry prey upon vulnerable mothers and families in abortion destinations.”
He pointed out Illinois as one of the states that “have tragically chosen to go in the opposite direction.” In the last year, not only has Illinois strengthened its abortion laws, but so have Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Vermont, and Washington. And in August, Ohio joined the legislative moves to “enshrine” the now defunct Roe.
In this new environment, what are pro-life advocates to do, besides lament?
Nikki Tibbetts is executive director of Pregnancy Care Center of Rockford in northern Illinois, and the wife of Heath, pastor at First Baptist Machesney Park. One new medical abortion clinic recently opened in Rockford and a surgical clinic will be opening soon in the city near Iowa, Wisconsin, and western states which have limited abortions.
This is the environment where Illinois’ more than 100 pro-life pregnancy resource clinics minister life to women making critical choices. “Those of us working at Pregnancy Care Centers cannot do this work alone,” Tibbetts said. “We desperately need the Church because lives are counting on us to stay faithful.”
Tibbetts said her center offers mentoring programs, but she tells many of their clients “what they truly need is a connection with a local church…. Centers desperately need more individuals and churches to come alongside and support families who need help and hope by not only supporting centers financially, but also a willingness to invest in people’s lives.”
Kevin Carrothers, executive director of the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services (BCHFS), says the sanctity of life is a gospel issue and abortion can be addressed biblically. At the same time, he asks Baptists to pray for Illinois and its leadership, saying we live in a time like that of the Apostle Paul. “Those ancient societies did not value life nor protect the life of the defenseless and vulnerable,” said Carrothers, “yet God wanted his people to pray for them.”
“As Southern Baptists living in a state as dark as Illinois, we have a massive opportunity to make a huge impact on the abortion debate,” said Molly Malone Rumley of Illinois Right to Life. “Talk about the issues in the church context,” she pressed. “Let women know that they have access to the resources they need, but also that for the Christian, being anti-abortion is non-negotiable.”
Read a full report and learn what your church can do to assist a crisis pregnancy center here.