The Illinois House of Representatives passed the Reproductive Health Act by a margin of 65-40 on Tuesday, legislation that could dramatically expand abortion access. The bill now moves to the Illinois Senate, where Democrats hold a 40-19 advantage over Republicans.
Six Illinois House Democrats voted against the measure and another four Democrats voted "present." The governor has indicated he will sign the legislation into law, if it passes in the Senate.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the bill eliminates spousal consent, waiting periods, and criminal penalties for abortion doctors. The bill (SB25) also overturns Illinois’ partial-birth abortion ban – partial-birth abortion is currently illegal at the federal level with an exception for the life of the mother.
In addition, the legislation, as explained by the ACLU of Illinois, requires private health insurance companies to provide coverage for abortion.
The Reproductive Health Act would ensure “that every individual has a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about one's own reproductive health. Provides 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 further provides “that a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the law, of this State.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), who has declared that Illinois “will be the most progressive state in the nation when it comes to guaranteeing women’s reproductive rights,” has expressed his willingness to sign the Act into law should it pass in the Illinois Senate.
“With reproductive health care under attack across the country, we must do everything we can to protect women’s rights in Illinois,” Pritzker said in a statement.
The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group, strongly opposes the bill, stating last week that, “The Reproductive Health Act is an extreme bill that would basically enshrine abortion as a positive good in Illinois law.” The legal group has not yet decided whether it will challenge any of the bill’s provisions.
The passage of this bill in the Illinois House of Representatives comes as the 2019 legislative season has seen 16 states introduce “heartbeat bills,” the most polarizing of these being in Alabama and Georgia. Chicago Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Ill.), a leading proponent of the bill, has painted this bill as a response to the pro-life movement’s recent legislative gains.
“Today, Illinois says we are better than this war on women. Illinois says we trust women. Please join me in saying that loud and clear: ‘We trust women,’” the representative said.
Illinois has now joined Nevada, New York, and Vermont in introducing bills that shore-up access to abortion.