On January 22, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a measure permitting abortion up to the gestational age of 24 weeks for any reason, and after that point, if “necessary to protect the patient’s life or health,” that is, broadening its prior “life of the mother” law to one based on the broad Doe v. Bolton definition as overall well-being.
On February 21, the Vermont House passed a measure that “would legalize abortion at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason,” as described by Alexandra DeSanctis at National Review. The House sent it to the state’s Senate.
Then Illinois climbed on the bandwagon with a bill that removes any limits on abortion, HB 2495, the Reproductive Health Act. As of February 28, it had 42 sponsors, out of a total of 118 members of the Illinois House of Representatives, 73 of whom are Democrats. On Tuesday, it was assigned to a committee. This bill is terrifying in its scope.
To begin with, it wholly repeals IL 720, the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975. This law has been amended multiple times, including in 2017 (HB 40), but some minimal protections remained, so that current Illinois law permits post-viability abortions but requires that an attending or referring physician determine that it was “necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother,” in which case the doctor was required to document the particular medical indications for the abortion. It also requires that, if the baby would be capable of survival, the doctor use the abortion method “most likely to preserve the life and health of the fetus” and a second physician be available to provide medical care for any child born alive. These provisions would be entirely removed.
The bill also would repeal the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act and the Abortion Performance Refusal Act, which, as its name suggest, protects the conscience rights of those who refuse to perform abortions. Instead, it categorically states that “Every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion, and to make autonomous decisions about how to exercise that right.” It also states “A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of this State.”
The bill’s definition of abortion makes it clear that abortions are intended to result in the death of the child: “‘Abortion’ means the use of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or device to terminate the pregnancy of an individual known to be pregnant with an intention other than to increase the probability of a live birth, to preserve the life or health of the child after live birth, or to remove a dead fetus.”
If that isn’t enough, the bill goes further: Any qualified “health care professional” — “including, but not limited to, a physician, advanced practice registered nurse, physician assistant”—may provide abortions (emphasis mine). There’s more:
- Abortion clinics become exempted from rules for ambulatory surgical treatment centers, unless they use “general, epidural, or spinal anesthesia.”
- Any health insurance policy issued in the state must include abortion coverage without any cost-sharing requirement.
- All instances of the phrase “pregnant woman” are changed to read “pregnant individual” and instances of the phrase “her unborn child” (in a section which, as small consolation, remains, on the intentional homicide of wanted unborn children) have the possessive pronoun removed, in order, it appears, to make allowance for pregnant transgender people.
Separately, a companion bill, HB 2467, would repeal the parental notification law. This bill, however, has a mere three sponsors.
Why this law? Why now? Although CBS News, for example, describes it as motivated by “uncertainty surrounding the fate of Roe v. Wade,” the 2017 law was already billed by its supporters as “codifying Roe v. Wade,” so whatever desire abortion rights activists in other states might have to eliminate any laws that would criminalize abortion in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned, it is not an issue in Illinois.
Instead, this bill is part of a larger strategy to normalize abortion, under any circumstances, at any point in pregnancy. As Rewire.News reported, “It’s pushing back against a deliberate strategy of the anti-abortion movement of stigmatizing and siloing women’s reproductive health care, and these bills are saying we need to treat reproductive health care like any other health care,” said Colleen Connell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois.
Indeed, even in the bill itself, “abortion care” is used instead of “abortion” and it is listed as one component of “reproductive health care” alongside “maternity care.”
This is Illinois, where Democrat J.B. Pritzker has replaced Republican Bruce Rauner (who signed abortion-expanding legislation) as governor, fast-tracked a $15 minimum wage (signed by Pritzker on February 19), and has been casting himself as the one who will save the state from his predecessor’s misdeeds.
Will the Democratic supermajority push this bill through as a means of demonstrating and cementing their power over Republicans, without any legislators even reflecting on or acknowledging its extreme nature? Will any consideration for the humanity of the unborn (and the lives even of abortion survivors) be discarded in order to score political points? It’s a very real, and very worrying, possibility.