Weeks ago, Illinois "fast-tracked" a shocking bill designed to make the state the "abortion capital," and over the weekend a determined legislature passed the collection of changes to state law, rolling back the state's partial-birth abortion ban and creating a "fundamental right" to abortion.
The legislation is even more shocking considering that it comes amidst a national trend in the opposite direction. States like Alabama, Missouri, Georgia, and Louisiana have all greatly restricted abortion and, in some cases, moved to eliminate the practice almost entirely.
But under Illinois' new Democratic governor, eliminating protections for the unborn has become a paramount priority, though it's not immediately clear how many residents of the state — which is so far in debt and mired in fiscal mismanagement that social legislation seems to be little more than a distraction — support the measure. Democrats in the state legislature quietly passed the bill out of committee Saturday, then rushed the measure to a floor vote in the Illinois House on Tuesday.
The Thomas More Society, which fought the bill, released a legal assessment of the measure over the weekend, outlining exactly how extreme Illinois' new abortion laws really are.
The bill not only legalizes abortion up until the very moment of birth, eliminating the state's longstanding ban on partial-birth abortion, it utterly ignores the concept of "viability," making no concessions for unborn children capable of feeling pain in the womb or capable of surviving on the outside.
The bill creates a ‘fundamental right…to have an abortion, and to make autonomous decisions about how to exercise that right,’ but does not put an age limit on who can exercise that right, effectively eliminating the state's Parental Notice of Abortion Act, which requires minor children to obtain an adult's consent before undergoing an abortion procedure. Although the bill doesn't specifically discuss the act, the ACLU has indicated that it will use the bill to undermine parental notification requirements.
The bill also reportedly removes licensing requirements for clinics and for abortion providers, allowing non-physicians to perform medical abortions. And to add insult to injury, the bill mandates that insurance providers — including explicitly Christian or religious insurance providers — cover the costs of both birth control and medical abortion.
"This bill remains the most radically pro-abortion measure of its kind and would make Illinois an abortion destination for the country. The amendment filed last night does nothing to change the core of the bill that bears the deliberately deceptive title ‘Reproductive Health Act," Thomas More Society senior counsel Peter Breen said in a written statement.
"The bill, as amended," Breen continued, "would remove any penalty for performing late-term abortions, allow nurses to perform medication abortions, and eliminate licensing and health and safety inspections of abortion clinics. The bill would strip all rights from unborn children and wipe nearly every abortion regulation off the books in Illinois, subjecting any that remain to a court challenge under a near-impossible-to-meet ‘strict scrutiny’ standard."
Sponsors of the bill don't see it that way. They consider themselves crusaders against what they believe to be a national attack on "reproductive rights."
"RHA codifies our existing practices and — and this is critical — treats abortion care just like any other health care, because it is,” state representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) said in her own statement. “Make no mistake, it doesn’t end here. Since Roe was decided in 1973, our opponents have fought to impede access to care and these efforts have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable population.”
Clearly, Cassidy does not consider the unborn a "vulnerable population."
Opponents of the bill rallied near the state capital in Springfield and filed more than 18,000 witness slips according to Illinois Right to Life Action, to no avail.
The bill will go to the Illinois Senate later this week and then to the desk of Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, who is expected to sign it into law.