The leftist caucus of the Illinois General Assembly looked at New York and Virginia and said, “Hold my beer.” As a result, a bill being called the Reproductive Health Act and another piece of legislation that repeals the Parental Notice of Abortion Act have been filed and are making their way through the legislative process.
The Reproductive Health Act exists as two identical measures in the House and Senate. House Bill 2495 has a hearing with the Human Services Committee at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday. The Senate Bill 1942 has not yet been assigned to a substantive committee. The two bills repealing the Parental Notice of Abortion Act are House Bill 2467 (which will be heard at the same committee meeting as House Bill 2495) and Senate Bill 1594.
What These Bills Plan to Do
The Reproductive Health Act is 118 pages long and presents so many positions that are problematic for people who are either pro-life or pro-liberty, it is difficult to summarize them all succinctly. The main thrust of the bill can be summed up in this one-liner: “A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of this State.”
To that end, the bill allows physician assistants to perform abortions and eliminates restrictions on where the procedure can occur. Further, the legislation repeals several provisions of the statutes that give legal protections for health care workers and providers who refuse to take part in or perform abortion procedures. Like the New York law, this would allow for abortion up to and during birth and decriminalize the murder of an unborn child (through, say, physical abuse of the child’s pregnant mother).
The state is prohibited from intruding in a woman’s “reproductive health care decision-making” and creates an avenue for a woman to bring a lawsuit should she feel this right was violated. Local governments may write ordinances expanding abortion access, but may not weaken access to abortion. The proposal also waters down the reporting requirements for abortions and exempts reports from Illinois’ Freedom of Information law.
The Reproductive Health Act is so encompassing in its own right, an argument can be made that also passing the bill repealing the Parental Notice of Abortion Act is overkill. Under the first measure, a child could sue her doctor for insisting on following the Parental Notice of Abortion Act and providing notice of the procedure to her parents.
These Bills Are Moving Fast
Both HB2495 and HB2467 have been assigned to the Human Services committee, and are included in the list of bills up for discussion at the next committee hearing, which is Wednesday, March 6, at 8:30 a.m.
It is not clear whether the committee will vote on or even discuss those bills during the hearing (there are almost 70 bills pending before that committee). However, the deadline to pass bills out of committee and onto the floor for consideration by the whole House is March 29. However, with Right to Life Day coming up on March 20, the bill’s sponsors are likely anxious to get the legislation out on the floor before the pro-life lobby has any chance of mounting a meaningful opposition.
A number of the chief co-sponsors of the pro-abortion bills are quite adept at passing leftist legislation. In the last legislative session, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy saw 10 of her sponsored bills become law, including six on which she was the chief sponsor. Cassidy’s legislative accomplishments include Illinois’ ban on talk therapy as a treatment option for those who experience unwanted same-sex attraction.
State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz has represented an extremely leftist district for the last 25 years. In that time, she has gained extensive institutional knowledge, enabling her to start a consulting firm and raise more than $1 million dollars for pro-abortion causes.
These Are Not Just Test-Drive Bills
Illinois has a deadline for filing new bills in February of every year. Legislators often file legislation that tends toward the extreme in order to get feedback on issues and see if the political climate is hospitable for either the measure itself, or perhaps a variation of it.
Sometimes these ideas are not well-thought out and it takes less than a week for them to be put back on the shelf. An example of this is when state Rep. Monica Bristow introduced new and highly invasive regulations for homeschool families earlier this year. Another one that is dead in the water is a tax on car mileage filed by state Rep. Marcus Evans.
However, when it comes to expanding abortion rights, the progressive caucus appears to be deadly serious about it being a priority, and it is going to take some doing for pro-life advocates to stop them.
Yet there is time for action, and that time is now. It is much easier for a measure to become law once a bill gets out of committee, and the Reproductive Health Act could do that as early as Wednesday morning. There is a Democratic supermajority in Human Services (just like in the full House), so unless there is a serious reawakening of conscience (or, more pragmatically, a large number of Democrats who happen to have center or right-leaning constituencies), the bill looks likely to pass.
These Bills Still Can Be Stopped
However, there is potential to stall these bills, or perhaps even stop them in their tracks, if pro-life advocates and constituents speak up loudly now. There are a number of members on the Human Services Committee who look like they could bow to pressure from the right, either because they do not have an established voting record, come from a swing district, or both.
It is of note that the first orthodox rabbi to hold office has been appointed to Human Services. State Rep. Yehiel M. Kalish is a new legislator (appointed to fill a vacancy, not elected) and professes to be quite left, but his religious beliefs and six kids suggest he could be a wild card on life issues.
Other potential swing votes on the committee pro-life advocates may want to focus on are state Reps. Mary Edly-Allen, Joyce Mason, and Michelle Mussman, who all reside in the Chicago suburbs. These geographic areas can be less reliably leftist, so their representatives may be more open to a pro-life argument, especially from their own constituents. This is especially true in the case of Edly-Allen and Mason, who only just recently flipped their districts Democratic in the last election.
Those who want to see the Illinois change the path it is on with respect to abortion rights can do three things. First, file a witness slip in opposition to HB2495 and HB2467. You can do this by going to this website, clicking “create witness slip” next to HB2495 and HB2467, and filling out the forms. Filling out a witness slip is an easy and effective way for an individual to tell the committee his or her opinion on a given piece of legislation. At the time of writing this, HB2495 has more than 2,000 registered opponents.
The next step is to contact legislators directly. Lawmakers genuinely welcome input from their constituents and other stakeholders. They want to know what people think, so they can give them what they want and get re-elected. The full makeup of the Human Services committee can be seen here. State representatives tend to be more responsive than at the national level. The more reasoned and well-thought-out the input a legislator receives on a proposal, the more likely it will be reflected in legislation.
Illinois residents should also consider contacting the representative for the district in which they live. This can be done by searching here by address. On the results page, a constituent’s state senator for a given address will be the second one down, and the state representative is listed third.
Give Lawmakers a Proactive Alternative
Lawmakers who can go back to their constituents and say, “I did this!” tend to receive more favorable press than the ones who can only say, “I stopped this!” For the pro-life advocate, this means that it may be helpful to provide legislators with input on which bills voters would like to see passed.
For example, there have been several pro-life bills introduced in the Illinois House, all of which have been referred to subcommittee. Someone considering contacting his or her representative may want to take a look at this subcommittee and identify a proposal or two that he or she would like to see advanced.
Finally, lawmakers should be getting tough questions from the press about these pieces of legislation, their positions concerning the rights of unborn humans, and how they square those positions with other policy goals, such as government health care and minority rights. The reason these bills are up in committee at 8:30 in the morning on a Wednesday is because they are extreme measures that probably would not survive if subjected to hard questioning from media outlets. These are issues the public wants to hear about, and now is the time the public wants to hear about it, not after the proposal is already law.
Those who were recently shocked to read about New York’s extreme abortion laws should note that these types of things don’t happen in a day. There is a legislative process, and there are safeguards built into that process to ensure that bad ideas don’t become law.
Illinois currently has most of its bills still in committee. This means it is at a prime point in its legislative season for people who care about life to make their opinions known. If there was ever a time to speak up, it is now.
The author is an attorney who has worked for the Illinois legislature for the better part of a decade. During that time, she’s seen some things.