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The bill that was signed into law last week by Governor J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) allows the state’s attorney general to investigate a case of alleged consumer fraud against crisis pregnancy centers accused of deceptive practices, but it has raised concerns that it would be used to target pro-life centers that suggest an association between abortion and breast cancer or infertility.
“The bill is painfully and blatantly a violation of the First Amendment,” U.S. District Judge Iain Johnston said on Thursday.
“There’s no doubt who the Attorney General wants to win or lose in the market place of ideas, but the government doesn’t get to decide that,” Johnston, a Trump-appointee, added. “The people do.”
Almost immediately after the law was enacted, the Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm that fights in defense of religious liberty and free speech, filed a suit challenging the law.
“Free Speech won today in the Land of Lincoln — pro-life advocates across Illinois can breathe a sigh of relief they won’t be pursued for ‘misinformation’ by Attorney General Kwame Raoul,” Peter Breen, the executive vice president and head of litigation for the Thomas More Society, said after the judge’s ruling.
The suit was filed on behalf of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, Women’s Pregnancy Services, Rockford Family Initiative, Relevant Pregnancy Options Center, and the Pro-Life Action League.
“Across the nation, pregnancy help ministries are being discriminated against by laws that target their life-affirming work,” said Breen. “The injunction granted today sends a strong, clear message to the country that the First Amendment protects pro-life speech.”
Centers found guilty of alleged “misinformation, deceptive practices, or misrepresentation” could have faced $50,000 in fines if found guilty.
Pritzker said he believes that the law will ultimately take effect and keep women in the state from accessing so-called “misinformation.”
“I’m disappointed that the far-right is interfering with the ability for women to access safe medical care without deception or lies,” he said. “This law is constitutional and I am confident that the law will ultimately be found constitutional and we’ll continue to work alongside Attorney General Raoul to ensure Illinois patients are protected from misinformation.”
Vermont has instituted a similar law taking aim at pro-life pregnancy centers, a law that is also being challenged in court.