There was a rush to pass legislation in the Senate before Friday deadline. Some of these bills included provisions that would have protected Illinoisans seeking reproductive health services.
The first of these proposals, Senate Bill 1909, would give the state’s attorney general explicit authority to crack down on “limited services pregnancy centers,” which are also known as crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs.
The bill, which was pushed by the attorney general’s office, bars CPCs from engaging in “unfair methods of competition” or “deceptive acts or practices.”
After heated debate, the proposal was passed by a 36-19 vote of partisans.
One type of facility offering services to expectant moms is the crisis pregnancy center. This may include counseling, assistance such as free diapers, or limited medical services such an ultrasound. These centers often work in conjunction with anti-abortion groups, both local and national.
CPCs are currently the topic of national debate, as they sometimes divert women who want abortions from receiving them.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that these organizations should not receive state funding. It also recommended states should strengthen consumer protection laws against false or misleading advertising to hold the industry’s more nefarious actors accountable.
“Patients report being misled into going to crisis pregnancy centers – sometimes even receiving exams and ultrasounds – thinking they were visiting another clinic that offers the full range of reproductive care. This is an extreme violation of trust and patient privacy that should not occur in our state,” Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a news release earlier this week.
The Crisis Pregnancy Center Map, a project of professors Andrea Swartzendruber and Danielle Lambert of the University of Georgia’s Department of Public Health, identifies 97 CPCs in Illinois. Guttmacher Institute, a research group that focuses on abortion rights, found that there were 40 abortion providers within Illinois in 2017.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, said it clarifies existing powers of the office of the attorney general, which already has authority to prosecute consumer fraud. Opponents of the bill criticized it on this front, saying that it gave too much power to attorney general.
“We’re going to have the same entity making the rules, deciding what the fines are, and then collecting those into their own coffers,” said Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro. “I don’t know any other circumstances that we do that in.”
Sen. Jil Tracy of Quincy suggested that this measure be used to prohibit volunteers at CPCs who hold religious views on abortion from sharing them.
“And this overreach just goes to the point that if you don’t believe the way the majority party believes in this state you’re wrong and we’re going to go after you,” she said.
Villanueva said the bill is not intended to punish providers of obstetrical or gynecological care “simply because they do not perform abortions.”
“Health care providers will not be subject to enforcement under this bill, as long as they do not employ fraud, deception and misleading practices to interfere with or prevent another from accessing comprehensive reproductive health care,” she said.
The bill also received criticism from outsiders.
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, of the Springfield Diocese, encouraged protestors last week to continue fighting against abortion measures in the State at the Capitol.
“Every year, over 10,000 out-of-state residents now come to Illinois for abortion, often at taxpayer expense. Since Dobbs’ June 2022 death, that number has risen dramatically. was decided,” said Paprocki said. “In states such as ours, we cannot relax our pro-life efforts now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.”
Others have already committed to fighting the bill in court.
“This bill is flagrantly unconstitutional, and if it becomes law, we will immediately file suit to protect pro-life organizations’ right to free speech,” Peter Breen, the head of litigation for the Thomas More Society, said in a statement Friday morning.
In recent years, Illinois has passed numerous laws that protect abortions. They’ve all faced similar Republican opposition as the measures that passed with only Democratic support this week.
Senate Bill 1344, another one of those measures, would provide insurance coverage for medication abortion, hormonal therapy, HIV medication. It was passed by the chamber on Friday, despite being partisan.
Additionally, reports from the Abortion care Clinical Training program would be exempted from the Freedom of Information Act. Established last year, the program provides grants to support abortion training programs at community provider sites.
Villanueva was also the sponsor of that bill. He noted that the exemption clarifies current law and keeps program participants secure.
“We already know that reproductive rights providers have been under attack, have been harassed have been abused, and in some cases murdered,” Villanueva said. “So when we strive to clarify laws in the state of Illinois in order to make sure that people are not put under duress in a situation or harassed…We’re trying to protect people which was the original intent of the original bill.”
Senate Minority Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, said the governor’s office already has administrative rulemaking authority to “exempt any sort of information that could pose … a threat of any sort to someone.”
“The reality is, we already have the authority on that point,” Curran said. “It’s up to the governor to act. The governor, for three months, has not acted on this point.”
The Senate also passed Senate Bill 1907, which would require state colleges and universities to provide “wellness kiosks.” These would be vending machines to provide wellness products with the explicit requirement that emergency contraception be among the items offered. This is sometimes called Plan B or the morning after pill.
Villanueva also sponsored the bill which was passed 38-19 on Thursday. Republicans criticized it, with Tracy calling it “frivolous.”
All three measures will be sent to the House for further review.
Capitol News Illinois is an independent, non-partisan news agency that covers the state government. It is distributed to over 400 newspapers across the state, and hundreds of TV and radio stations. It is funded mainly by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and the Illinois Press Foundation.
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