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Illinois Governor Signs Bill Scrapping Third-Trimester Abortion Restrictions

lllinois Governor J.B. Pritzker delivers remarks in Washington, D.C., April 9, 2019. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday signed a wide-ranging bill protecting abortion rights in the state.

The Reproductive Health Act states that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of this state” and that an individual has a “fundamental right” to abortion.

“If you believe in standing up for women’s fundamental rights, Illinois is a beacon of hope in the heart of this nation,” Pritzker said before signing the law. “We trust women.”

The measure “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,” he added.

The bill passed the Illinois House 64 to 50 and last month passed the Illinois Senate 34 to 20. While advocates have described it as simply codifying current law in Illinois, critics have charged that it dramatically loosens the state’s abortion restrictions.

The bill scraps a requirement that a second physician sign off on an abortion performed after viability (around 24 weeks) and permits the procedure for the “health of the patient,” which includes “all factors that are relevant to the patient’s health and well-being, including, but not limited to, physical, emotional, psychological, and familial health and age.”

The law also repeals Illinois’s Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, although that procedure, usually performed extremely late in a pregnancy, is still prohibited by federal law. Certain non-doctor medical professionals would be permitted to perform abortions under the law, and all health insurers would be required to cover the procedure.

The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based pro-life law firm, accused the state of “legalizing the death penalty, with no possibility of appeal, for viable unborn preemies” in passing the law. The group’s vice president, Peter Breen, a former Illinois representative, called the bill “the most radical sweeping pro-abortion measure in America” and said it “makes Illinois an abortion destination for the country.”

“Americans of every political persuasion are appalled by these attempts to expand abortion on demand through the moment of birth and even infanticide, and that in turn is driving pro-life momentum around the country,” said Jill Stanek, the Susan B. Anthony List’s national campaign chairwoman, in a statement.

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