Last week, Turning Point USA founder and executive director Charlie Kirk penned a column for the Daily Herald titled “A fond farewell to state I love that doesn’t seem to love me.” In his article, he laments the financial and moral crises plaguing Illinois and announces a predictable exit to Florida, which lacks an income tax for state residents and boasts an excess of Republican money – attractive qualities for Kirk as an up-and-coming conservative mogul.
Of course, he’s not the first quasi-famous Illinois resident to announce such an exit, nor will he be the last – but his editorial makes some critical points, particularly in reference to Illinois’ millennial demographic that, for someone like me – a millennial, a conservative, and a pro-life activist – demand a pause. Why, given the odds and the reasons to leave, would I choose to stay?
In his column, Kirk points out that Illinois “is in the top five states from which wealthy millennials are departing,” per data from the IRS itself, defining “wealthy millennials” as six-figure earners under the age of 35. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that when unestablished young adults start making real money, they realize they’d rather put down roots anywhere but here. And if a bad pension algorithm in decades past meant big problems for our state at present, imagine what this exodus might mean for the future. Hint: it’s likely bleak.
It’s true Illinois lacks a great deal – prosperity, for starters. J.B. Pritzker’s latest onslaught of tax increases will surely be felt for miles, and the legalization of marijuana combined with the state’s long-standing immigrant sanctuary policies will soon mean a list of troubles as long as my left arm. These policies are disastrous and the outcomes, predictable: poverty, crime, and widespread suffering must follow (although, many would argue poverty, crime, and suffering made a home here long ago). And that’s all without mentioning the General Assembly’s very-public efforts to turn our state into the abortion capital of the nation, going to great lengths to attract abortion providers and pave the way for abortion-seeking travelers from across the U.S.
The abortion issue in Illinois is one worth honing in on. Yesterday, The New Yorker printed an article titled “How Illinois Became An Abortion-Rights Haven.” We’ve been forced to watch these past six months as a frantic national abortion industry has projected the state of Illinois from “abortion-friendly” to its new role as nationwide oasis. It’s rumored that Hope Clinic – which made headlines for this billboard on I-55 – has a parking lot full of cars from states across the country every day. Hotels throughout Chicago provide discounted rooms to women who have an appointment for an abortion procedure nearby. The goal of the Reproductive Healthcare Act – which forces private insurance to cover abortions and removes the need for a doctor to be present, amongst other things – is clearly to achieve more abortions. And if the Repeal of Parental Notification passes in the fall, it’s a matter of time before the decreased rate of abortions performed on minors sees a drastic uptick. Illinois has been hand-picked to single-handedly carry the country’s abortion rate – regardless of the outcomes.
Why does this matter? Because the outcomes will be devastating. Those of us who work in pro-life – at a pregnancy resource center, or in post-abortive counseling, or at an education organization like IRL – know that more abortions means more broken women. It means more Illinois women who will travel through life as merely a shell of themselves. In 2006, a New Zealand study concluded that there is a strong correlation between induced abortion and subsequent mental health issues – such as depression, anxiety, addiction, or suicidal thoughts – when compared with women who had never been pregnant or had carried pregnancies to term. A Canadian study found that women three months post-abortive were five times as likely to experience psychiatric hospitalization, and another study suggests that within one year of their abortions, post-abortive women experience a suicide rate six times higher than women who’d never had an abortion. And these studies are supported by countless more performed across the world that conclude, time and again: abortion is bad for women.
The stats are overwhelming. And what’s more, the CDC reports that black and Hispanic women are significantly more likely to have an abortion in their lifetime. That means these disturbing mental health stats disproportionately affect minority communities – the same communities disproportionately affected by poverty and crime in Illinois, and the same communities that will feel the greatest hurt when bad policies like legalized marijuana set in.
Impoverished Chicago neighborhoods are already experiencing a crisis of the family. Homes on the south and west sides are ravaged by drug abuse and gang violence, and are significantly lacking in father figures. The State of Illinois reports that more than half of incarcerated men are black. Safe to say, fathers have been adequately removed from the picture – and now, by working overtime to increase the rate of abortion in our state, we’re doing irreversible damage to women’s mental health and taking black mothers out right along with them.
These changes to Illinois abortion policy will be lethal. So, when Republicans tout an exodus, I have to ask: why? Why are we leaving? Because the way I see it, we have a moral duty to stay.
Yesterday, I visited a pregnancy resource center that serves a large Hispanic community in Illinois, and is mere blocks from a Planned Parenthood. My welcome was warm and inviting. The waiting room was cozy, bright, and adorned with pamphlets that described adoption as “a profoundly loving and selfless choice.” The clinic’s “boutique” – where new moms are able to shop using credits they accrue through clinic programs – was overflowing with clothes, toys, and diapers. And the clinic’s director – herself, post-abortive – shared a thought with me: in Illinois, our politics are bad – but this means women need us even more.
Her point is gravely critical. Pro-life does not end with politics. I think of Mother Teresa – who scolded the Americans who showed up on her doorstep in Calcutta, looking for someone to serve. “Go home,” she told them. “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us.” As Illinois residents, we find ourselves in one of the most corrupt states in the nation. Our legislators are firmly under the thumb of an abortion PAC that’s wreaked havoc for more than 30 years. We can be frustrated. We can be angry. But we cannot quit, and we cannot leave. We cannot let politics – we cannot let taxes – distract us from the mission, which is to serve women and protect the unborn. How could we leave? We have to stay and fight.