On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade this January, Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker stood at a podium in a Planned Parenthood office and signed an executive order enforcing a law to mandate taxpayer-funded abortion. Pritzker, a Democrat elected last November, vowed at the event to make Illinois “the most progressive state in the nation when it comes to guaranteeing women’s reproductive rights.”
Democratic legislators in his state intend to help him keep his word. In mid February, they introduced the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), the most radical abortion expansion in state history and in the entire country. Though this bill bears the same name as the legislation New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed on the day Pritzker delivered his remarks, its contents are far more radical.
The Illinois RHA would create a fundamental right to abortion, for any reason and with no restrictions, throughout the entirety of pregnancy. This bill is the ultimate manifestation of the abortion-on-demand mindset, which regards abortion not as a necessary evil that facilitates greater freedom for women, but rather as a positive social good.
Under current Illinois law, abortion is not permitted after the fetus can survive outside the womb, unless the physician determines “it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” The RHA would completely erase that provision, establishing instead “the fundamental rights of individuals to make autonomous decisions about one’s own reproductive health [including] to have an abortion.”
Any unborn child, including a perfectly healthy one that has developed enough to be delivered and to survive outside its mother, could instead be killed for the crime of being unwanted. Such a regime far exceeds the standards laid out in both Roe and the subsequent Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which recognized a legitimate state interest in protecting fetal rights after viability.
Instead of balancing those rights, this legislation explicitly dehumanizes unborn human beings, providing that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of this State.” This is more radical even than privileging a mother’s “right to choose” over the rights of the child inside her. It is an outright denial of that child’s humanity.
This extreme premise — that the right to dispense with unborn human life is so fundamental that it requires stripping those vulnerable human beings of any rights whatsoever — enables the legislation to reach some sweeping conclusions, many of which disregard the inherent risks that abortion poses to maternal health.
The RHA would allow non-doctors — including nurses, physicians’ assistants, or a person acting under their supervision — to perform abortions. It removes licensing requirements for abortion clinics (even under current law, no Planned Parenthood facility in Illinois is licensed or inspected), and it removes penalties for attempting to perform a self-abortion.
Meanwhile, the bill runs roughshod over conscience rights, first by repealing the Abortion Performance Refusal Act, which contains protections for doctors and hospitals with moral objections to performing or participating in abortion procedures. It also requires all private health-insurance companies to cover abortion procedures — at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason — for free. It offers no corresponding religious exemptions.
Democrats hold a majority in both chambers of the Illinois legislature, and the RHA has more than three dozen co-sponsors in the House and more than a dozen in the Senate. But some legislators appear to be skittish about the extreme nature of the bill: In early March, several co-sponsors removed their names from the legislation.
Meanwhile, more than 12,000 Illinois residents have submitted witness slips for the hearing record, stating their opposition to the RHA. One source in the Illinois pro-life movement says that is “the most we have seen on any life-related legislation in more than 30 years.” And just last week, 4,000 pro-life opponents of the bill attended an Illinois Right to Life Action rally at the state capitol, a crowd so large that the building reached capacity and security closed the entrance.
Though the bill in its totality reveals the internal logic of the abortion-rights movement, perhaps the starkest single example is the RHA’s erasure of a current law that requires doctors to use the abortion method “most likely to preserve the life and health of the fetus,” without causing greater risk to the mother’s life or health. The bill also scraps a requirement that a second physician attend every post-viability abortion procedure to care for an infant should it be born alive.
Eliminating these provisions has nothing to do with protecting women’s rights. Instead, it has to do with ensuring that every abortion accomplishes its obvious aim: the death of an unwanted child.
The Reproductive Health Act is stalled in committee in both the House and the Senate, leaving room to hope that decency will prevail in Illinois — or at least that the current, already permissive abortion law will remain in place, with its narrow protections for the unborn and for the consciences of doctors.
But the logic of the abortion-rights movement, on march around the nation, continues to reveal itself. The goal of unlimited abortion is not to “terminate pregnancies,” but to terminate unborn lives.