This past holiday weekend, Illinois state Rep. Terri Bryant and other Republican members of the Illinois House spent two hours in a last-minute committee hearing, questioning the text of the so-called Reproductive Health Act (RHA) and making strenuous process objections to the way the bill was being rammed through. However, in the end, and to no one’s surprise, the RHA passed out of committee on a 12-7 party line vote. The measure passed the full House of Representatives on Tuesday 64-50, with four abstentions.
— Jaclyn Driscoll (@DriscollNPR) May 28, 2019
Next, it will go to the Senate for a quick vote on concurrence, and then to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk for a signature he has promised to inscribe. Democrats hold a supermajority in the state’s House and Senate, and Pritzker has vowed to make Illinois the “most progressive state in the nation” on abortion. It doesn’t look like the sponsors of the RHA are pulling any punches.
According to Illinois Right to Life Action:
SB 25 expressly strips all rights from unborn children, changes the definition of viability, and legalizes abortions through all nine months of pregnancy, up to the moment of birth, for any reason. Any restrictions or regulations on abortion are effectively eliminated.
Non-physicians will be allowed to perform chemical abortions. Licensing and health and safety inspections for abortion clinics will be eliminated. Meanwhile, private health insurance policies – including those for religious organizations – will be forced to cover all abortions, without exemptions.
Creating a “fundamental right” to abortion, SB 25 also threatens the current Parental Notice of Abortion Act, requiring the parents of a minor girl to be notified forty-eight hours prior to her having an abortion.
Rep @AveryBourne (R-Raymond), who, again, is due in July, closes after ~50 minutes of back and forth between her and @RepKellyCassidy. She gets a bit choked up toward the end. Here's the stenograph of her closing: pic.twitter.com/IWtUeOlI0N
— Hannah Meisel (@hannahmeisel) May 28, 2019
When the Illinois House convened for session at 4 p.m. on the Sunday before Memorial Day, most statehouse employees and reporters were expecting a low-key day, designed to get all legislators in town and ready to get to work this week on the many outstanding legislative measures still on the table ahead of adjournment on May 31 (such as a progressive income tax measure, the legalization of recreational cannabis, online gaming, sports betting, craft distillery licenses, and the budget).
One of the measures that people were not expecting to see much action on was the Reproductive Health Act (House Bill 2495/Senate Bill 1942). Because of the groundswell of opposition the measure faced throughout the normal legislative process, it looked like pro-life interests had prevailed and the measure would be deferred until next year at the earliest.
However, rather than “gavel and go,” members learned that the language of the Reproductive Health Act had been filed as an amendment to Senate Bill 25, and would be heard in committee that evening.
Illinois law requires that the House and the Senate each “read” a bill on three separate days before voting on it. Senate Bill 25 met this requirement and passed the Senate, and the bill has already been read twice in the House. Under the House rules, by putting the language of the Reproductive Health Act on Senate Bill 25 at this stage in the legislative process, the proponents have skirted the usual six-day committee hearing notice deadline. Rather, the measure is subject to only a one-hour posting requirement.
Largely because the committee hearing took place with one hour’s notice on the Sunday night before Memorial Day, the hearing was sparsely attended. Yet pro-choice advocates apparently had been notified of the strategy. There were five activists dressed as handmaidens from “The Handmaid’s Tale” and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood (including a medical doctor) appeared in support of the measure. In spite of the short notice, an ad hoc opposition effort managed to rack up more than 4,000 witness slips in opposition to Senate Bill 25 within a few hours of House Amendment Number 1 going public.
Despite leftists’ best efforts to the contrary, there is still time and opportunity for Illinois residents to make their voices heard. Citizens who wish to contact their legislators can find contact information by searching here by address. They can also call the statehouse switchboard at 217-782-2000 for help in getting connected with their legislators.
Illinois residents should also contact the sponsors of the RHA (contact information can be found by clicking on each name on the list of sponsors appearing on the bill status page for Senate Bill 25) and legislative leaders, to express any concerns about the legislative process or the language of the amendment itself.
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. She’s the author of this article also.