CHICAGODemocratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker made Illinois the most liberal state in the United States for access to reproductive health care with the strokes of 20 pens June 12 at the Chicago Cultural Center.
It was a vow he made at the beginning of the legislative session, and a charge both backers and detractors of the Reproductive Health Act maintained would come to pass. The measure became law immediately with his signature.
Pritzker said the law makes the Prairie State a "beacon" for access to pregnancy care, contraception, birth control, abortion procedures and other related benefits by making access to these things a "fundamental right." That means no level of government in Illinois can infringe upon a woman or man's access to reproductive health care.
"Let the word go forth today from this place that if you believe in standing up for women's fundamental rights, Illinois is a beacon of hope in the heart of this nation. We trust women," the governor said.
While opponents say the law strikes protections from statuteincluding the automatic autopsy of a woman who dies during an abortion, penalties for an illegally-performed abortion post-viability and inspections of clinics where the procedure is doneproponents say it codifies current practices and removes aspects of statute enjoined by the courts.
Advocates also point out the measure treats abortion procedures as health care.
"The government shouldn't be able to tell a woman what's best for her body and her future. By making the Reproductive Health Care law in Illinois, we're sending a clear messagethat we trust women to make their decisions about their bodies," Senate sponsor Melinda Bush, a Democrat from Grayslake, said. "We believe that women should have the same autonomy over their bodies that men do."
The legislation was introduced in February by House sponsor Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Democrat from Chicago, and in the Senate by Bush. The twin bills sat in legislative limbo until early May, when calls for action came from advocates and lawmakers after moves by states such as Louisiana, Georgia and Missouri to restrict access to abortion procedures.
Some of those laws were passed to challenge the 1973 case Roe v. Wade, which legalized the procedure nationwide, before the U.S. Supreme Court.
"All of us believe the state of Missouri and the rest of the states that have passed laws taking away women's rights should change their minds, should revisit the issue," Pritzker said. "But Illinois knows where we stand and we're going to be here for women if they have to be refugees from other states. We don't want them to bewe want women to be able to access health care where they live and all of us believe in that."
Immediately following the signing ceremony, opponents of the act held a news event in opposition to the new law. Present were representatives from the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based pro-life law firm, and Illinois Right to Life Action, a pro-life lobbying group.
"It's a tale as old as time. Illinois politicians are more concerned with pandering to cash-wielding progressives and Chicago media outlets than they are with representing the people of our state," said Mary Kate Knorr, Illinois Right to Life Action spokeswoman. "Pritzker doesn't care what the people of Illinois want, nor does he care that abortion takes a human life."
Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel of the law firm, said the "deceptively titled" Reproductive Health Act makes Illinois "an abortion destination for the country."