Illinois still a safe haven for abortion, regardless of Supreme Court decision

Published: Jun. 24, 2022 at 6:53 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois has laws in place protecting a woman’s right to choose regardless of Friday’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. Although, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is calling on state lawmakers to return to Springfield in the coming weeks for a special session to further enshrine the state’s commitment to reproductive health care rights.

Pritzker said Roe v. Wade is still the law in Illinois, and it will stay on the books as long as there is a pro-choice legislature and pro-choice governor.

“Overturning Roe v. Wade directly contradicts the nation’s history of expanding rights in the United States,” Pritzker said. “It’s an attack on freedom and liberty our constitution is supposed to guarantee.”

Twenty-six states are expected to ban or severely restrict abortion rights, including states bordering Illinois. While these Republican-led states move to make abortion illegal, reproductive rights advocates say abortions will continue. However, they will often happen in dangerous or even deadly circumstances.

Abortion is still legal and safe in the Prairie State due to laws enacted over the past decade. Illinois Democrats stressed they will continue to support the right to choose and expand access for people from other states who seek an abortion.

Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton said she is disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision but determined. Stratton said it was a dark day for the country and people cannot avoid the deep ache caused by the ruling.

“I ache for the women across the nation who fear for what comes next. I ache for my daughters, who are losing a constitutional right that was afforded to their mother,” Stratton said. “I ache for the lives—the lives of BIPOC women, in particular—that this decision has put at risk.”

Democratic leaders from both chambers joined Pritzker during a press conference in Chicago shortly after the announcement Friday morning. Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) has long fought for reproductive rights in Springfield.

“We built the firewall to protect, and it holds,” Cassidy said. “But it’s only as strong as the next election. We have two Supreme Court races on the ballot in November.”

Cassidy said the balance of the Supreme Court hangs on those two races. Still, Republican gubernatorial hopefuls are celebrating.

Frontrunner Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) says the Supreme Court decision is a historic and welcomed moment. The downstate senator argues Pritzker is an “abortion extremist” out of touch with the overwhelming majority of Illinoisans.

“He continues to push a radical agenda from taxpayer-funded abortion, late-term elective abortions, and removing parental notification,” Bailey said. “The fact J.B. Pritzker advocated for and signed legislation to allow a 12-year-old to get an abortion without their parents knowing is egregious.”

Meanwhile, Jesse Sullivan said he has prayed for this day for years. Sullivan says he will get rid of taxpayer-funded abortions and veto any bills creating greater access to abortion if elected.

“We’re going to help pregnancy care centers to help women make that choice to bring life into the world,” Sullivan said. “Not just be pro-birth, but be pro-life. And that’s gonna be our focus when I’m governor.”

Richard Irvin still won’t give his stance on abortion. However, the Aurora mayor said he will continue to fight for every parent’s right to know if a minor child is having an abortion. Irvin noted that this Supreme Court ruling will have no effect on the law in Illinois as there are Democratic majorities in both chambers.

Even so, Pritzker is now worried about the future of privacy rights for many across the country.

“There’s not much that stops them from making marriage equality illegal and taking away employment protection for your beliefs or your orientation,” Pritzker said. “No ifs, ands, or buts about it - we are heading down a dangerous spiral that will erode our democracy.”

Illinois lawmakers may discuss proposals to expand the availability of health care professionals who can perform abortions such as advanced practice clinicians. Democrats also hope to add protections for doctors who provide abortions for people from other states. The House passed a proposal earlier this year to prevent the state from revoking, suspending, or taking other disciplinary action against health care professionals who provide any medical services related to abortion in surrounding states.

“Today, half of Americans are losing basic human rights and bodily autonomy,” said Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside). “Today, in 2022, my 8-year-old daughter will grow up having fewer rights protected by this country than her mother and her grandmother did.”

Republican lawmakers already criticized the governor’s call for a special session to address reproductive rights. Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) said mainstream Illinoisans don’t want lawmakers to push the state to the utter extreme on abortion policy. He argues Illinois should not help pay for out-of-state residents to travel across borders to receive abortions.

“While the Governor is calling a special session to act on these and potentially other extreme measures, Illinoisans are trying to deal with soaring gas prices and massive grocery bills that are leaving families hopeless,” McConchie said. “Instead of dealing with these vital issues, Pritzker is embracing an extreme agenda that will make Illinois an outlier even amongst the most liberal states.”

The special session is expected to convene after the Fourth of July. Protests against the Supreme Court ruling started Friday and are expected to continue across the country over the weekend.

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