Illinois Passes Law Expanding Abortion Rights

CHICAGO (CN) – In response to abortion bans being enacted by conservative states, the Illinois Legislature passed a new law late Friday expanding abortion rights in case the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

The Reproductive Health Act will replace Illinois’ current abortion law, adopted in 1975, and expands access to abortions up until a fetus has a “significant likelihood of a fetus’ sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures.” The bill leaves a woman’s doctor responsible for determining what medical measures qualify as “extraordinary.”

The Illinois House passed the Act 64-50 on Tuesday. Six Democrats voted no, and four others voted present. The Illinois Senate passed the Act 34-20 on Friday, with three senators voting present.

The Illinois Senate stands adjourned shortly after coming to order on July 31, 2017, in Springfield, Ill. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP)

The bill’s introductory paragraph states, “This Act sets forth the fundamental rights of individuals to make autonomous decisions about one’s own reproductive health… [including] the fundamental right of an individual who becomes pregnant to continue the pregnancy and give birth to a child, or to have an abortion, and to make autonomous decisions about how to exercise that right. This Act restricts the ability of the State to deny, interfere with, or discriminate against these fundamental rights.”

Gov. Jay Pritzker voiced his support for the bill before it passed the Legislature, and will sign it next week.

In a statement Friday, he said, “In Illinois, we trust women to make the most personal and fundamental decisions of their lives — and now, that will be the law of the land, even as it’s under threat in other states.”

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, received death threats for her sponsorship of the bill and said she was emotional after it passed.

“For those of you, I’m sorry, that don’t have a uterus, I’ve got to tell you to make that decision, that is not an easy decision,” Bush said. “That’s not something that any woman makes without tremendous difficulty and pain, nor something she ever forgets. But it’s not your right, nor mine to tell her that that’s what she should do. It’s her right to make that choice.”

The law removes spousal consent requirements, criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions (although this provision of the law had been enjoined by federal courts), waiting periods and other restrictions on facilities that perform abortions.

It also repeals the partial birth abortion ban, although late-term abortions remain illegal under federal law, except to save the mother’s life.

Introduced in February, the act stood in committee for months, but was fast-tracked to a vote in light of laws restricting access to abortions enacted in several Republican-controlled states, which have been emboldened to challenge Roe v. Wade by the new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.

On May 15, Alabama’s governor signed a bill making abortion virtually illegal. The law makes performing an abortion a felony, except in cases where the mother’s health is at risk. Doctors who perform an abortion in the state would face a 99-year sentence.

Six other states – Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia, Missouri, and Louisiana – have approved bans on abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.

Missouri’s new law bans abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. In addition to the eight-week cutoff, the bill also imposes a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for doctors who violate the ban.

Arkansas and Utah have passed 18-week abortion bans, while Indiana and North Dakota both passed bills banning dilation and evacuation abortion procedures, which effectively bans second-trimester abortions.

All of these new laws face legal challenges and will be enjoined from taking effect by lower federal courts until they make their way to the Supreme Court where their enactors hope the conservative justices will overturn Roe v. Wade.

On Tuesday, Supreme Court declined to review Indiana’s disability abortion ban, which the Seventh Circuit struck down, because no other appeals court has addressed a similar ban.

However, the ruling may indicate a reluctance to squarely overturn Roe, which has been the law of the land for over 50 years.

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