Credit: Gayatri Malhotra/Unsplash

Content warning: This column contains a reference to sexual violence.

As I write, it’s Labor Day—traditionally, the start of the election season.

That means “normal” people start to sorta pay attention to what’s going on in politics, as opposed to political junkies, like myself, who never stop paying attention.

As such, it’s my pleasure to tell you voters who are not paying attention that this upcoming November election is not your typical mundane midterm affair.

At least, not in regards to abortion rights.  

At the moment, abortion is legal in Illinois, thanks to laws passed in 2017 and 2019 by  Democratic legislators. After Governor Pritzker signed the 2019 bill, a gaggle of anti-abortion zealots filed a suit to overturn it. In all likelihood, they would lose if their case were to suddenly reach the Illinois Supreme Court. 

That’s because the Court currently is composed of four Democratic and three Republican justices. But that could change after November because there are two contested seats—one in the second district, which is in Lake County, and one in the third district, which is mostly in DuPage County.

If the Republican candidates win in those districts, the Republicans will be in a position to make favorable rulings favoring the zealots that will gradually, ruling by ruling, outlaw abortion in Illinois. No matter who the governor is or which party controls the legislature.

They could, if they want, use those rulings to turn Illinois into the second coming of Mississippi. Or Texas. Or Ohio. Or Indiana. Or all the other MAGA-controlled states where abortion is outlawed even in the case of incest or rape.

Both sides realize those two Illinois Supreme Court elections are key—it’s about the only thing both sides agree on.

That’s why abortion rights backers strongly support the Democratic candidates—Elizabeth Rochford in the second district and Mary Kay O’Brien in the third.

And why MAGA backs the Republicans—Michael J. Burke in the second and Mark Curran in the third.

It’s a pivotal moment in this fight. For about the last thirty years, anti-abortion Republicans have had the momentum. They’ve taken over legislatures throughout the country enabling them to pass anti-abortion laws, like the one in Ohio that would force a ten-year-old rape victim to carry her rapist’s child to birth. 

But the tides may have changed since the Dobbs decision in June in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe.

The first indication came last month in Kansas. It’s a red state that voted for Trump, yet almost 60 percent of the voters approved an abortion rights referendum.

It was then that Republican strategists realized they might have to tone down the stridency of their anti-abortion rhetoric and positions, at least in swing districts.

And that brings me to Mark Curran, who, as I said, is running for Illinois Supreme Court against Elizabeth Rochford in the third district up in Lake County. Very much a swing district.

Curran recently told WBEZ reporter Dave McKinney, “I’ve never called myself anti-abortion.”

Wow. If Curran were Pinocchio, his nose would have grown a foot after that remark.

Formerly the sheriff for Lake County, Curran began his political career as a Democrat. In 2008, he switched parties after former Governor Rod Blagojevich got arrested for bribery.

“I’m walking away from the party of corruption,” Curren said at the time. “To suggest that Rod Blagojevich is an aberration and is not typical of machine politics in the city is an outright lie.”

Coincidentally, Blago has undergone his own political transformation since President Trump commuted his sentence and freed him from prison.

Like Curran, Blago’s a MAGA man. I wouldn’t be surprised if Blago winds up endorsing Curran—maybe even doing a little campaigning for him. Anything’s possible in the wacky world of MAGA these days.

In 2020, Curran was the unsuccessful Republican nominee in the race against Senator Richard Durbin. And he was not shy about letting everyone know how anti-abortion he was. 

Consider Curran’s comments from July of 2020, just after Congressman John Lewis died. Lewis, of course, was one of the most courageous heroes of the civil rights struggle. He led marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama, where they were met by Alabama state troopers, who bashed Lewis in the head. 

Here’s what Curran had to say about Lewis, the man who literally put his life on the line for civil rights.

“He might have been instrumental in the fight for civil rights at one time, but John Lewis got in bed with Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry . . . Three out of five pregnancies in the African American community end in abortion. If you want to know why there is violence in the streets of Chicago, why it’s the most violent city in America, it’s because there’s no respect for the sanctity of human life.

“So when you have a quote-unquote ‘civil rights leader’ saying ‘it’s okay to kill all these little Black and Hispanic babies in the womb, no big deal, let’s make it as easy as possible making these centers in the inner city,’ well, you’re not much of a civil rights leader.”

That’s a standard Republican counterattack. Anytime they want to pivot from positions they know are disgraceful—like not honoring John Lewis—they bring up abortion.

As if to say, bashing John Lewis in the head may be bad, but abortion is worse. Darren Bailey, the Republican candidate for governor, sort of did the same thing—only in regards to Nazi genocide.

I suppose I can’t blame Curran for trying to conceal his real views on abortion. If voters knew he was so zealously anti-abortion, they might not support him. Except perhaps for Blago, whose zeal for MAGA apparently knows no bounds.

The point, dear voters, is that when it comes to abortion rights, you have a clear choice. Unlike the women of Illinois, should Republicans seize control of the state supreme court. 

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