CHICAGO - Illinois’ new abortion law is a “death penalty” for the unborn and will add to pro-life momentum across the U.S., critics said after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law on Wednesday.
“The bill Illinois lawmakers passed is so radical, they even went out of their way to repeal the state’s ban on barbaric partial-birth abortions,” charged Jill Stanek, an Illinois native and former nurse who is now the Susan B. Anthony List’s national campaign chair.
“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. There is no pride or glory in being the most extreme pro-abortion state in the nation,” she said June 12.
The legislation, called the Reproductive Rights Act, passed the state’s Senate by a vote of 34-20. It had passed the House in a 64-50 vote.
“In a time when too many states across the nation are taking a step backward, Illinois is taking a giant step forward for women’s health,” said Pritzker, a Democrat. “Today, we proudly proclaim that in this state, we trust women. And in Illinois, we guarantee as a fundamental right, a woman’s right to choose.”
Besides ending a ban on partial-birth abortion, the bill would remove regulations for abortion clinics and end required waiting periods to obtain an abortion. In addition, it would lift criminal penalties for performing abortions and would prevent any further state regulation of abortion.
The legislation would require all private health insurance plans to cover elective abortions. It would eliminate abortion reporting requirements as well as regulations requiring the investigation of maternal deaths due to abortion.
“The governor and the Democratic supermajorities who fast-tracked this legislation have created a new ‘death penalty’ in Illinois, with no possibility of appeal, for viable unborn preemies,” said former Illinois State Rep. Peter Breen, who is now vice president and senior counsel for the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.
“This act is barbarous,” he said. “Its definition of ‘viability’ expressly excludes many babies who today live and thrive when born premature,” he added, noting that the law means that such unborn babies “now have zero legal rights or protections.”
In a May 26 statement, the six bishops of Illinois had denounced the rush to push the legislation through at the end of the session, without releasing the bill’s final text or vetting it through public hearings.
“The fundamental premise of the bill is flawed, and no amendment or tweak to the language will change the fact that it is designed to rob the vulnerable life in the womb of any trace of human dignity and value,” they said.
According to Pritzker, the law codifies what was already case law due to court decisions. The state’s partial-birth abortion ban, which became law in 1997, has since 2001 been under a permanent injunction from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Pro-abortion rights advocates fear new Supreme Court decisions on abortion could overturn or greatly modify precedents in decisions like the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade. They have worked to ensure permissive abortion legislation in many states, including New York.
Some of the proposed laws, such as one in Virginia, led to controversy over whether such laws would permit abortion up to birth and would encourage authorities to turn a blind eye to the deaths of babies who survive abortion attempts.
Pro-life advocates, for their part, have sought to pass strong restrictions on abortion, hoping to expand legal protection for the unborn. Legislation barring abortion based on when an unborn child has a detectible heartbeat, about six to eight weeks after conception, has become national news with special focus on Alabama’s law.
“While a growing number of states are working to advance popular pro-life laws, Illinois is trying to outdo New York’s abortion extremism – and unborn children and their mothers will pay the price,” Stanek said June 12.
Breen characterized the Illinois law as “the most radical sweeping pro-abortion measure in America.” It would make Illinois an “abortion destination” for the country and is among “the most extremely permissive abortion laws of any state in the nation.”
The law’s creation of a “fundamental right” to have an abortion and to “make autonomous decisions about how to exercise that right,” in Breen’s view, mean the legislature and the governor have made abortion “the principal and primary right in Illinois, above all others.”
In the wake of its passage, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago said the vote “marks a sad moment in our history as a State.”
The six Catholic bishops of the Catholic Conference of Illinois issued a joint statement against the legislation in February. The Catholic conference issued statements after it passed the state House of Representatives and the Senate.
Previous versions of the bill which were not passed into law included provisions that allowed non-physicians to perform abortions, removed conscience protections for health care personnel who object to abortion, and repealed parental notification requirements for minors receiving abortions.
On June 2 Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki said that Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan may not be admitted to Holy Communion within his diocese, because of their work to pass the state Reproductive Health Act.
“These persons may be readmitted to Holy Communion only after they have truly repented these grave sins and furthermore have made suitable reparation for damages and scandal, or at least have seriously promised to do so, as determined in my judgment or in the judgment of their diocesan bishop in consultation with me or my successor,” he said.
The bishop also directed the Catholic legislators who have voted for legislation promoting abortion should not present themselves to receive Holy Communion until they have first gone to confession.
Paprocki said that he issued the decree to encourage conversion.