ILLINOIS — The Illinois House passed a measure to expand and protect abortion rights Tuesday that supporters said is necessary while opponents said the legislation goes too far.
The measure next heads to the Illinois Senate for a concurrence vote.
Sponsor of the Reproductive Health Act, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said Senate Bill 25 is needed.
“With the new [U.S. President Donald] Trump appointees to the Supreme Court and the federal courts across the country, we can no longer rely on bad law protected by federal injunctions,” Cassidy said.
She said the measure takes on additional importance after several states passed or are considering laws that would effectively ban abortion or add more restrictions for the procedure.
“As attacks escalate around us, Illinois can respond with equal force,” Cassidy said.
Republican state Rep. Avery Bourne, who’s pregnant, took issue with several parts of the bill, which she said was too expensive.
“So you are taking out the prohibition on sex-selective abortions and you think that’s the appropriate thing for the state to do?” Bourne said.
“I think that it is appropriate to codify current practice,” Cassidy said.
Bourne also took issue with what she said was the measure’s language removing rights from an unborn fetus. She worried the law would not allow someone to be held accountable for an attack against a pregnant woman that harmed or kills a fetus in the womb. Cassidy said existing law on that issue would stand.
Bourne and other Republicans were also concerned about a lack of requirements to report to the state why an abortion was performed, and even restrictions they said would keep a coroner from investigating botched abortions.
Even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, Cassidy said previous legislation would still allow for Illinois to have legal abortions. However, she said she feared it would become more difficult.
Bourne said the measure wasn’t necessary.
“This bill is not about keeping abortion legal in Illinois,” Bourne said while holding back tears on the House floor. “This is about a massive expansion that will impact viable babies and that is wrong.”
Bourne said the measure allows third trimester, post-viability abortions to happen outside of the life and health of the mother. Cassidy and supporters of the measure said the measure codifies existing practice.
Rep. Andrew Chesney (R-Freeport) said the proposal extends far beyond common decency as a society.
“This proposal diminishes the quality of healthcare for women and extends far beyond our sense of common decency as a society. At a time when it is critical for legislators to be addressing funding of our schools, attracting jobs to Illinois, and keeping our kids and grand-kids in Illinois, we are forced to have to defend the very sanctity of Life itself.”
Senate Bill 25, Floor Amendment 1 includes the following provisions:
- Makes abortion a fundamental right under Illinois law.
- Prohibits state interference with this newly created fundamental right.
- This prohibition will likely get rid of the parental notification act.
- Explicitly states that “A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of this State.”
- Removes criminal penalties against a doctor who performs an abortion when there is a reasonable possibility of the survival of the fetus outside the womb.
- Requires ALL private insurance companies to cover abortion.
The measure passed 64-50 in the House, with several Democrats voting against it. Senate Bill 25 must now be concurred by the Senate before it can go to the governor.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he wants to make Illinois the most progressive state in the nation for reproductive rights.
After Tuesday’s vote, the governor urged “the Senate to take swift action on this critical piece of legislation.”
“With reproductive healthcare under attack across the country, we must do everything in our power to protect women’s rights in Illinois,” Pritzker said.
The ACLU of Illinois said the legislation protects “basic health care.”
“While the debate over the past months has focused on abortion care, the RHA also protects access to contraceptives, assisted reproduction, diagnostic testing, and maternal care in our state,” said Colleen Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois. “The bill empowers every person in Illinois to make the most personal medical decisions in consultation with their physician. Everyone deserves that right. The House recognized this and saw the urgency in protecting this basic health care.”
The Catholic Conference of Illinois called the passage of the legislation “a grave tragedy.”
“This act is an extreme measure, allowing for the abortion of unborn life at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason,” it said in a statement. “It sends a message to everyone in our state that life is cheap. This is a truly sad day for Illinois. We will continue to make our case against such callous disregard for human life whenever it appears in society.”
By Greg Bishop
The Center Square