Illinois Senate Passes Bill to Protect the ‘Fundamental Right’ to Access Abortion

Illinois state Sen. Melinda Bush in a 2017 file photo.
Photo: John O’Connor (AP/File)

While lawmakers in several states are attempting to strip women and other marginalized genders of their reproductive health rights with draconian anti-abortion legislation, Illinois is stepping up with a strong bill to protect the “fundamental right” to have an abortion.

On Friday, the Illinois Senate voted 34-20 in favor of the Reproductive Health Act, which states that a “fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have independent rights,” the Chicago Tribune reported. The legislation passed the state House earlier this week and now heads to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has promised to sign it into law.

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Democratic Sen. Melinda Bush, the chief sponsor of the bill in the state Senate, told the Tribune that the legislation is needed because “there’s a war against women’s rights going on.” She said the Reproductive Health Act considers abortion the same as “every other medical procedure.”

It also repeals part of the state’s abortion law dating to the 1970s that called for criminal penalties for doctors and required spousal consent, among other rules. Those regulations previously had been blocked by courts. Additionally, the new legislation creates pregnancy benefits, access to contraception, and other healthcare measures, according to the Daily Herald.

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Bush said the bill is needed because there is “a very real possibility that Roe v. Wade will be overturned in the next few years.” She said it “guarantees that women in Illinois have the right to make decisions about their bodies, regardless of what happens at the federal level,” the Herald reported.

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In a statement, Pritzker, a billionaire Democrat elected governor last November, vowed that Illinois would become “the most progressive in the nation for reproductive healthcare.”

“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,” Pritzker said, according to the Tribune.

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At least six Republican-controlled states recently have sought to restrict and criminalize abortion in a sweeping effort to force the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. The latest state to pass a restrictive abortion bill was Louisiana, where Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an anti-abortion law on Thursday. That law would ban abortion when an ultrasound can detect a “fetal heartbeat,” about six weeks into pregnancy.

In Missouri, a judge on Friday blocked an attempt by the health department to close the state’s only abortion provider. If the St. Louis Planned Parenthood chapter’s license is successfully revoked, as state officials are attempting to do, Missouri would become the first state without a clinic providing abortions in 46 years, NPR reported. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Tuesday.

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