New legislation signed July 29 by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, will compel all medical practitioners and pregnancy centers to promote abortion regardless of their religious or moral convictions. The new law has rattled state and national pro-life advocates because the governor acted against his party’s pro-life platform by signing the bill.
Senate Bill 1564 is an amendment to the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act that now mandates pro-life medical providers and pregnancy centers either refer their patients to abortion providers or provide them with a list of abortion centers. The pro-life centers also must counsel patients on what it calls the “benefits” of abortion.
Rauner had the power to veto the bill but approved it instead.
“We are extremely disappointed in Gov. Rauner for siding with pro-abortion Democrats by signing SB 1564 and expanding abortions in Illinois,” Emily Zender, executive director of Illinois Right to Life, said in a statement. “This radical bill is a direct assault on the consciences of medical professionals and the missions of community-supported pregnancy help centers.”
The state House passed the bill in May by a 61-54 margin, and it will go into effect Jan. 1. While the bill mandates pro-life healthcare workers promote abortion, it does not specify whether the healthcare providers and nonprofits can counsel patients on alternatives to abortion such as adoption or parenting, according to LifeSiteNews.
Illinois Right to Life submitted to the governor more than 6,000 signatures opposing the bill. The state is home to some 51 nonprofit pregnancy centers that offer free services like ultrasound and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Several state-level and national pro-life groups, including Americans United for Life, Thomas More Society, and Heartbeat International, also expressed their disapproval of the legislation.
“This is sad and tragic news,” Ann Scheidler, vice-president of Illinois-based Pro-Life Action League, said in a written statement. “The pro-life pregnancy centers should be protected from giving exactly the advice that goes against everything they stand for. They will not do it.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) said in May it would challenge the bill in court if it became law. The Christian legal group sent a letter to the governor before he signed the bill, saying the legislation violated federal law and threatened federal Medicaid reimbursements. ADF also noted courts previously struck down similar legislation passed in Austin, Texas, Baltimore and Montgomery County, Maryland, and New York City.
“Alliance Defending Freedom has represented multiple pro-life pregnancy help organizations in federal lawsuits in which we have obtained court orders against laws that attempted to force the pregnancy center to recite the government’s messages,” the letter said.