A Lake Villa village trustee looking to unseat an incumbent Republican in the state Senate said she was motivated to run after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Attorney Allena Barbato is running in the 32nd District against state Sen. Craig Wilcox, a former Air Force colonel and McHenry County Board member who was appointed to the Senate seat in 2018 and successfully won reelection in 2020.
The district, redrawn as part of the decennial redistricting process, represents parts of northern Lake and McHenry counties, including Cary, Woodstock, McHenry, Johnsburg, Fox Lake, Lake Villa and Antioch.
Wilcox said he is staunchly anti-abortion with a few exceptions.
“Had abortion remained safe, legal and relatively rare – that was the goal 50 years ago – we would not have seen Roe v. Wade change,” Wilcox said. “But in Illinois we allow abortion up until birth.”
As of 2020, 58% of abortions in Illinois took place during the first eight weeks of pregnancy and 85% by week 11, Illinois Department of Public Health data shows.
While Barbato cited numerous issues that she finds important, she said it was the overturning of Roe v. Wade this summer that motivated her to run and and try to protect Illinois’ robust abortion protections, Barbato said.
“We know from our history that not providing for safe, legal abortion leads to women dying,” Barbato said. “We decided long ago that women should have access to abortions if they needed them. My mom’s generation, grandmother’s generation, they fought for this right.”
Barbato said she felt more women were registering to vote and she had heard from many in McHenry County who were unhappy with the Supreme Court’s decision and now feel empowered to take action.
Barbato described herself as a “fighter” and said her own background included a firsthand wartime experience as a child. She and her parents were living in Cyprus in 1974 while her father worked on a dissertation, and they had to flee during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
Wilcox said while there were certain scenarios in which abortion may be justified, Illinois and the country at large had moved far beyond those limitations and that a majority of abortions are not due to incest or rape, but rather are “personal choices.”
Barbato said it shouldn’t be up to legislators to parse through whether individual abortions should take place and said there was “no easy answer” on more controversial aspects of Illinois abortion law, such as the lifting of parental notification.
She said also she supported the measures Illinois took over the summer to both protect abortion rights within the state but also to provide support to out-of-state women who will be coming to seek abortions.
“We can’t sit here and work up all the different scenarios that can play out in someone’s life,” Barbato said. “The best thing we can do, as legislators, is to appreciate the complexity and fragility of people’s lives, and do what it takes to protect people’s health and safety.”
Wilcox pointed to the case of a Chicago educator, former high school Dean Brian Crowder, who allegedly took the teenager he’s charged with sexually abusing to get an abortion and faking his signature as her stepfather on consent forms.
“Without parental notification, he could have done that 100 more times without getting caught,” Wilcox said. “When we go to extremes, we open the door even more.”
Despite his strong anti-abortion stance, Wilcox said “the reality is the Supreme Court decision changes nothing in Illinois” and he saw his role within the minority Republican Party as trying to limit how much taxpayer dollars were appropriated to abortion.
“It is a moral discussion, for the most part,” Wilcox said. “To me, that is the challenge.”