Pritzker declares Illinois “most progressive state in the nation” on abortion

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ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act into law at a Chicago press conference Wednesday morning and declared Illinois is now the “most progressive state in the nation” for women’s reproductive rights.

“In a time when too many states around the nation are taking a step backward, Illinois is taking a giant step forward for women’s health,” Pritzker said.

Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said, “Other states are in a race to pass the most extreme restrictions and get them to the Supreme Court.”

Lousiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed the nation’s most recent “heart beat” bill, which bans abortion as early as six weeks without providing any exception for cases of rape or incest. Five other predominantly Republican states, including Missouri, have passed similar restrictive laws this year.

“At our very doorstep, in 11 days, the people in Missouri will find out if they will lose the only clinic in their state,” state Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) said Wednesday. Health officials declined to renew the state license for for a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, triggering a court fight. If the clinic shuts down, Missouri would become the first state in the nation without legal access to abortion in 46 years.

“There is a war against women, a war on bodily autonomy,” Cassidy said. “Our opponents are using hateful, untrue, and outright misogynist rhetoric which escalates daily and endangers women everywhere.”

Peter Breen, the Vice President and Senior Counsel at the anti-abortion Thomas More Society group, framed the new law as the “most radically pro-abortion measure of its kind.”

“What happened today was the legalized killing of viable preemie babies in utero,” Breen said at a press conference protesting the new law.

“We have a viability standard in the law,” Cassidy responded. “And federal law with regard to abortion late in pregnancy reigns supreme. So there is nothing in this law that will make that scenario possible.”

The Reproductive Health Act goes beyond the controversial HB-40 measure former Republican Governor Bruce Rauner signed in 2017. The new law requires health insurance companies cover abortion procedures, it blocks husbands from preventing their wife from getting an abortion, and it assures doctors they won’t face any criminal or civil penalties for performing the procedure.

“We believe women should have the same autonomy over their bodies that men do,” Senator Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, said. 

“In Illinois, we guarantee as a fundamental right a woman’s right to choose,” Pritzker said. 

“The RHA ensures that women’s rights in Illinois do not hinge on the fate of Roe v. Wade or the whims of an increasingly conservative Supreme Court in Washington.”

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