This week, legislators are introducing companion bills to guarantee access by repealing several decades-old measures, including a 44-year-old dormant law that criminalizes providers who perform abortions and a 1995 restriction that requires minors to appear before a judge to seek approval for the procedure if they don't have a guardian.
“For more than four decades, individuals across Illinois have lived with laws controlling their access to reproductive health care that are either unconstitutional or cruel,” Colleen K. Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois, said in a statement provided to Refinery29. “It is time to modernize and fix this approach. We applaud these thoughtful sponsors for bringing forward these proposals for discussion now. It is time for this discussion in our state.”
The Reproductive Health Act, sponsored by state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, repeals a 1975 law which has been mostly blocked by the courts because it included measures such as criminalizing providers and letting husbands obtain injunctions in order to block their partners from having an abortion. The legislation also repeals a "partial birth abortion" ban which placed restrictions on physicians performing abortions after 20 weeks. The RHA will replace the legislation and have language in place emphasizing that the state of Illinois recognizes abortion as healthcare.
The second bill repeals the Parental Notice of Abortion law, which was blocked by the courts for decades before being allowed to be enforced starting five years ago. “It never made sense to me that a minor can make other decisions – about carrying a pregnancy to term, about adoption, about sophisticated health care – without parental notification, but only if she seeks an abortion do we require this communication,” state Rep. Emmanuel "Chris" Welch, who is sponsoring the bill, said in a statement provided to Refinery29. “We cannot pretend as elected officials that we can force ourselves into these situations because some disagree with a minor’s decision about their life.”
The fight against abortion rights has heated up in the last decade. According to the Guttmacher Institute, states enacted 22 new abortion restrictions in 2018 alone. With the new makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, it's likely anti-abortion lawmakers will continue to feel emboldened enough to enact restrictions that will inevitably lead to legal challenges. Their hope, reproductive rights advocates argue, is to bring before the court the legal challenge that finally overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that guaranteed a woman's rights to choose an abortion. But pro-choice state legislatures have also aggressively introduced bills to counteract the wave of anti-abortion laws. Per a 2018 report by the National Institute for Reproductive Health, last year 27 states and the District of Columbia enacted legislation protecting and expanding reproductive rights, including access to abortion. As demonstrated by Illinois and other states such as New York, Virginia, and New Mexico, this trend is likely to continue in 2019.