State

Proposed legislation would greatly expand reproductive rights in Illinois

Repeal and replacement of current abortion law has strong initial support from Democrats

Supporters attend a rally held by Planned Parenthood commemorating the 45th anniversary of the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling Jan. 22 at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif.
Supporters attend a rally held by Planned Parenthood commemorating the 45th anniversary of the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling Jan. 22 at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif.

A bill overhauling Illinois’ abortion law and replacing it with a more liberal version has wide Democratic support in the House.

The Reproductive Health Act, proposed by Rep. Kelly Cassidy, repeals the current law dictating abortion policies in the state and replaces it with policies to “protect individual decision-making.”

Cassidy (D-Chicago) announced her intentions in filing this bill at a news event Tuesday in Chicago at the headquarters of the state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“As a woman, a mother and someone who has been a longtime supporter of full access to reproductive care, from contraception, abortion, pregnancy and postpartum care, it is time to modernize and update these laws to reflect the equality of women in Illinois,” she said.

Cassidy’s proposal follows a pledge Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker made to “make Illinois the most progressive state in the nation for access to reproductive health care,” his spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in an email.

Under the proposed legislation, private health insurance companies operating in Illinois would need to cover abortion procedures without implementing “any restrictions or delays on the coverage.”

This would expand a law signed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner, which allowed tax dollars to be spent on abortion procedures through Illinois’ Medicaid and state employee health insurance programs.

Soon after passage, that legislation was challenged in court by attorneys with the Thomas More Society. It filed documents with the State Supreme Court in December asking the justices to take up the case.

Cassidy’s measure additionally specifies that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights.” It mandates that the state cannot infringe upon the expanded rights this legislation grants women, and creates an avenue for legal action.

Her legislation also repeals the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act and the Abortion Performance Refusal Act, which specifies that a medical professional who declines to recommend or perform an abortion procedure cannot be held liable for damages.

This initiative is one of two Democrats are pushing this legislative session to expand reproductive rights, they said at Tuesday’s news event. The other is Senate Bill 1594, a measure proposed by Sen. Elgie Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago), to repeal the Parental Notification of Abortion Act. It requires a minor to consult with her parent or guardian before terminating a pregnancy.

Cassidy’s legislation is House Bill 2495. It is sponsored by about 40 other Democrats.

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