CHICAGO (WBBM Newsradio) — After long and sometimes contentious debate, the Chicago City Council has approved a plan to provide more than $5 million in tax subsidies to the state’s largest Catholic health system, despite its opposition to abortion and full access to birth control.
Aldermen voted 31-18 to approve $5.5 million in tax increment financing to help Presence Health open or redevelop facilities in Belmont-Cragin, Avondale, Calumet Heights, and West Town.
The vote followed an hour-plus debate over Presence Health’s opposition to abortion and contraceptives. Presence follows U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ directives, so its facilities do not perform elective abortions or provide full access to birth control, but officials said they refer patients to places that do.
After pro-choice and women’s groups urged aldermen to reject the TIF plan earlier this week, 18 aldermen voted against the Presence subsidy, including Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd).
“This is about whether or not public tax dollars should be used, public property tax dollars should be used to subsidize a private institution that does not provide the full array of reproductive health services to women,” he said.
Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) said the agreement helps keep Presence Health facilities open in under-served neighborhoods like hers.
“Women on the South Side and the West Side are not dying from the lack of access to abortion. They’re dying from the lack of accessible abilities to dialysis centers and cancer screenings,” she said.
Presence officials said they refer patients to partner facilities that can perform abortions and provide birth control services.