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Illinois Compassionate Quarterly – Summer 2021

Meet Legislative Champion, Illinois Representative Robyn Gabel

Today we’re pleased to spotlight Representative Robyn Gabel (D) of the Illinois 18th House District, which includes several north Chicago suburbs. Rep. Gabel also serves as the Assistant Majority Leader.

First, please enjoy local and national updates about the end-of-life options movement.

Local Update

Our Illinois volunteer Action Teams continue to engage their communities through local programs and services.

  • The Southern Illinois Team received a sponsorship from the Rainbow LGBTQ Center for a Q&A program with the filmmakers of Bob’s Choice: Why a Seattle Man Chose Death with Dignity. Rev. Sarah Richards from Carbondale’s Unitarian Fellowship participated in a virtual panel for Midwest faith leaders on June 16.
  • The Champaign-Urbana Team held a July 13 discussion of Diane Rehm’s documentary When My Time Comes. Participants watched the film prior to the program.
  • The Oak Park Action Team has been hosting an information table at the Oak Park Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings, June–October. In just 2 weeks, 19 people signed up! The Northwest Suburban and Champaign-Urbana Teams are or will be hosting tables at their local markets.
  • The former Evanston Action Team recently changed their name to the North Suburban Action Team. The new team includes 9 additional communities to form a northern regional team.
  • Members from all teams have been busy with legislative outreach. A total of 16 volunteers made phone calls to Compassion & Choices’ supporters and recruited more than 100 constituents in 55 districts to meet with their legislators to talk about medical aid in dying! To date, we have scheduled six legislative meetings, two of which are scheduled for later this month. This education and outreach by constituents to their lawmakers is critical if we want the Illinois legislature to authorize medical aid in dying.

If you would like to join the movement, we welcome you to join a local Action Team or start a new one! Please contact Amy Sherman for more information.

National Update

New Mexico’s Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act took effect on June 18, 2021. This makes New Mexico the eleventh jurisdiction where medical aid in dying is authorized.

California’s bill to improve its medical aid-in-dying law, SB 380, is picking up steam. The bill would reduce the waiting period between requests for the prescription from 15 days to 48 hours. It would also make the law permanent. SB 380 passed out of the Senate floor in May. It has also passed out of two Assembly Committees (Health and Judiciary). Next stop is the Assembly Appropriations committee! We are working hard in the hope that California will join Oregon in improving access to medical aid in dying.

Finally, in honor of Pride Month, Compassion & Choices engaged in a variety of activities in June including a Q&A session with the filmmakers of Bob’s Choice hosted by the Illinois team with 75 attendees.

Spotlight: Representative Robyn Gabel

Illinois Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-18)

Robyn Gabel has represented the 18th District in the Illinois House of Representatives since April 2010. She previously served as the Executive Director of the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, a non-profit advocacy organization, from 1988 to 2010. Gabel has a Bachelor of Arts from Beloit College, a Master of Science in Public Health University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health, and a Master of Jurisprudence in Health Law from Loyola University of Chicago. She was recently appointed to the position of House Assistant Majority Leader.

1) What does the option of medical aid in dying at the end of life mean to you on a personal level?

My background is in health care. Before I became a legislator, I served for over 20 years as the executive director for a non-profit where I worked primarily on women and children’s health, and maternal health policy issues. I have long advocated for making health care more comprehensive, affordable and accessible, as well as eradicating stigma surrounding types of care such as mental health care or reproductive health. I will continue to fight for quality care, and for people to have the right to make their own decisions regarding their treatment and what is best for them and their unique situation.

2) What do you view as opportunities and challenges for medical aid in dying in the upcoming legislative session?

A lot depends on timing. The recent global pandemic revealed many shortcomings in our existing safety net systems. To me, it has meant that we have an urgent duty to address those problems and to work together to make progress. This past session, we made headway on many health and medical issues including expanding telehealth options and expanding Medicaid coverage. Of course, there is still much more work to do. With this renewed focus on gaps in our healthcare system, going forward, there may be ways to incorporate measures expanding patient-focused, end-of-life planning options. There is some opposition to medical aid in dying which will be more vocal upon bill introduction.

3) What is/are the most important actions Illinois advocates can or should be taking now to pave the way for successful introduction and passage of a medical aid in dying bill?

Continuing to spread awareness of the issue to both legislators and the general public can help to further the cause. Keep sharing personal stories, as well as facts, to help others understand. Advocates can participate in phone banks, host email and letter writing campaigns in addition to meetings with legislators. Attending town halls and other events can help to open a line of communication and begin a dialogue.

To address the opposition, it will be important to identify people of faith, medical providers and people living with disabilities who support the issue and encourage them to be involved with the effort.

4) Can you briefly summarize the steps as a legislator you take to introduce a bill to the House of Representatives?

We are in session from January through May each year, with a shorter veto session in the fall. When I am not in Springfield, I prioritize holding events in the district, listening to community members, and meeting with local leaders. This helps me identify any local issues that may be resolved through a legislative approach. Gathering feedback and putting all my ideas into a legislative agenda is the first and most crucial step.

Next, we work with legal staff and researchers to draft the bill and file it, and this is when it receives its bill number. After that, it gets assigned to its appropriate committee. Once it passes out of committee by a simple majority vote, then it can move to the House floor for a full vote. Once the bill gets passed out of the House, again by a simple majority, it moves to the Senate for a vote. After it passes both the House and Senate, the bill will be sent to the Governor to be signed into law. This is the best-case scenario.

Sometimes along the way, the bill will need changes or amendments either for language clarification purposes or as a result of negotiations. If the Senate makes any changes to a bill after it has already passed the House, then they need to send it back to the House again for concurrence. If a bill passes both the House and Senate, but the Governor vetoes it, we do have an opportunity to override a veto, but it requires two-thirds of legislators voting for it, rather than a simple majority. Throughout the process, I make time to meet with other legislators and educate them on my bill and ask for their support.

Upcoming Events

Join us for a virtual evening of celebratory milestones, inspirational stories, and fun entertainment on October 6 at 6 p.m. CT at Power, Purpose and Promise: A Fundraiser to Benefit Compassion & Choices. The event is complimentary, with a $50 suggested minimum donation. Click here to register!

Want to learn how to present on end-of-life options and advance care planning? Join us for a two-day Train the Presenter Workshop on October 21 and 22, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day. Register for the training here.

Check out the following links for more information on upcoming and past events:

Call for Storytellers

One of the best ways to build this movement is to share our stories. Miguel Carrasquillo was a young man from Puerto Rico who was living and working in Chicago when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. This video released earlier this year in English and Spanish marked the fifth anniversary of his death.

If you would like to read others’ stories or share the struggles of navigating end-of-life options of your own or those of a loved one, click here.

“Finish Strong” Challenge

Many of us will face dementia–either personally or with those we love. It is important to be prepared. Compassion & Choices offers two online tools to help navigate a dementia diagnosis: The Dementia Decoder will help you get more out of your doctor visits by helping you generate questions to ask, and the Dementia Values & Priorities Tool will allow patients to provide a set of clear instructions to their loved ones.

Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and complete both of these tools this week!

Before You Go…

If you would like to become more involved with Compassion & Choices in Illinois, please email Amy Sherman at [email protected]

If you have suggestions for future editions of this newsletter, please email Patrick Donges at [email protected]

 

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