The 21st Show

IL SCOTUS Pension Ruling; More Out Of State Abortions Happening In IL; Illinois’ First Dark Sky Park


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On The 21st: Last year more than 5,500 women came to Illinois to have abortions—about 1,000 more than the year before. Plus, astronomy fans got some good news, as Champaign County. now has the state’s first dark sky park. But first, the Illinois Supreme Court has struck down a law that was designed to limit union leaders from paying themselves disproportionately high pensions.

We know that Illinois has a pension problem. In fact, the latest numbers from the state legislature just released this past Friday have that our pension debt at $133.5 billion dollars.

Our state government has also gone through different political and legal battles for years over how to fix this crisis. One small fix? Limiting the amount that union bosses could receive, after a Chicago Tribune investigation found that some labor leaders were getting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

That battle has taken another turn, as the state Supreme Court stepped in to throw out that law. They said that the changes the statehouse made were unconstitutional. Sound familiar? This has come up in the past when lawmakers have tried to fix our pension situation.

Two reporters have been following this issue for years. Ray Long is an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Also joining us we had Jason Grotto. He’s now with ProPublica Illinois, but he first started reporting on this for the Tribune back in 2011.


We’ve seen across the country many changes to the landscape of access to abortion. The Midwest is no different: a woman’s ability to obtain a legal abortion varies greatly state by state. Just this morning the Supreme Court said it wouldn’t hear a case filed by Kansas and Louisiana that was trying to strip Medicaid money from Planned Parenthood.

Here in Illinois, we actually have some of the least restrictive abortion laws especially when compared to our Midwestern neighbors.

And that means that more women from the Midwest end up here. New numbers from the end of November show even more women are coming from outside of Illinois to have abortions in our state. That’s according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

How many women are we talking about? Last year, more than 5,500 women traveled to Illinois from other states to terminate pregnancies. That’s almost 1,000 more than in 2016.

Timna Axel joined us to talk about this. She is a volunteer with the Midwest Access Coalition, a Chicago-based nonprofit that helps with the costs associated with travelling to terminate a pregnancy. 

Angie Leventis Lourgos also joined us on the line. She’s been reporting on this for The Chicago Tribune. 

And Katie Watson was with us. She’s a lawyer as well as a professor of medical humanities and bioethics.  Katie is also the author of Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law and Politics of Ordinary Abortion. 


There are more stars and galaxies out in space than we can wrap our heads around. But, it might not look that way if you were to look up at the sky this evening depending on where you live.

If you can’t see the stars, that’s because of light pollution. 

And here in Illinois, astronomy fans have gotten some good news. Late last month the Middle Fork River Forest Preserve in Champaign County got a unique accreditation: it’s officially an International Dark Sky Park. And it’s the first one in Illinois.

Joining us on the line to help us learn more about this we had David Leake, a professor of astronomy and physics at Parkland College. He’s also director of the Staerkel Planetarium. 

And also joining us in our Urbana studios we had Mary Ellen Wuellner. She's the executive director of the Champaign County Forest Preserve. 

Story source: WILL