Sauk Valley opinions on Roe v. Wade decision mixed

A billboard outside of Sterling along Route 2 Friday, June 24. This morning the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade eliminating constitutional rights to abortions.

The billboard on Route 2 seen when leaving Sterling and heading east to Dixon reads “the first human right: life.”

The words have changed a few times over the years, but for more than a decade, the billboard has been a banner of anti-abortion sentiment.

In the rural, politically conservative Sauk Valley, however, the issue of abortion has drawn little public outcry.

In fact, to even get an abortion, local residents would have to travel at least an hour. The Ottawa Health Clinic likely is the closest, about an hour away; there are others relatively nearby in Aurora, Peoria, Orland Park and Skokie.

As with the rest of the country, local opinions on Friday’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, leaving the right to have an abortion up to each state – and, in Illinois, they remain legal – are mixed.

Joan Padilla of Sterling is a Whiteside County Board member and a former Democratic candidate for Illinois’ 71st House District.

“Today is a sad day for 60-plus percent of Americans who believe in the constitutional right for a woman to choose,” she said. “A right that has been supported for almost 50 years. Today, we as Americans should be very concerned when a branch of our government refuses to follow the law but is pushed by an extreme political agenda and so cavalierly dismisses the rights of a woman to choose her own path. This decision will, of course, not end abortions, but it will have dire consequences for women, for victims of rape and our economy.

“This decision is not just about abortions. If you don’t agree with abortions, don’t have one. Your individual choice should not stand in the way of another’s. I encourage Americans to get to the ballot boxes and vote for candidates who understand personal freedoms and the right to choose.”

The Rev. Scott Porter is a pastor at Abiding Word Church in Sterling, a nondenominational church with about 540 members.

He said he personally “is pro-life,” adding that Friday’s decision does not make abortion illegal, it just puts it back into the hands of the states.

“I think it was a good decision,” he said. “It sends it back to the Democratic process.”

Now it’s “up to the people to elect representatives to vote one way or the other, according to the dictates of their hearts,” Porter said. “Hopefully, people will protest peacefully, and there won’t be hatred over this.”

He also noted that because abortion will remain legal in Illinois, the state will see an influx of people seeking the service.

“Make of that what you will,” he said.

Sarah Bingaman of Dixon is a founding member of Action for a Better Tomorrow Sauk Valley chapter, a Democratic political advocacy group that formed in 2017 in the wake of the presidential election.

“One frustration among many with the overturning of Roe v. Wade is the fact that when Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh and Justice [Amy] Coney Barrett were interviewed by the U.S. Senate during their confirmation hearings, they swore under oath that Roe v. Wade was the established law, and they stated that they would support it,” Bingaman said.

“They lied to the members of the U.S. Senate, and they lied to the American people. How can we now trust these members of our highest court?”

Local YWCA officials were unavailable for comment, but YWCA Metropolitan Chicago released this statement:

“Today, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended 50 years of federal abortion rights. We are deeply saddened and troubled by this decision because we know how critical Roe v. Wade has been in enabling women, especially women of color and economically disadvantaged women, to pursue educational opportunities and participate in the workforce.

“And even though abortion will remain legal in the state of Illinois, we are very concerned about women’s progress and rights across the United States, both now and in the future. Undoubtedly, this decision will further exacerbate long-standing racial and reproductive health inequities.”

The Catholic Diocese of Rockford also issued a statement. In part, it said: “Today’s decision now returns the abortion debate to each state’s legislative body. That legislative process will continue and, as people committed to human rights and the protections for both those not yet born and for expectant mothers, we need to engage our representatives by persuasion and by our votes.

“Our voices can save lives. At the same time, for us as Catholics, this is a moment to bring forth our charity to heal the wounds that have been left by abortion. That means that we will continue to work to bring God’s merciful love to those suffering post-abortive wounds through the church’s Project Rachel ministry. We will also continue to love, support and assist both preborn children and their mothers and recommit to offering the spiritual and material help needed by both in this critical moment when life is chosen.”

Editor’s note: This story was edited Saturday to remove Joan Padilla’s place of employment as she was speaking as an individual and elected official and not as a representative of the not-for-profit entity.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.