Illinois Democrats are attempting to make it the most liberal state in America for abortion, declaring it a right and repealing nearly every limit on the practice.
On Tuesday evening, the Illinois House approved a measure to do away with nearly every abortion limit. The bill will loosen clinic inspection and safety standards, guarantee abortion until birth, and declare abortion a "fundamental right." House Democrats inserted it into a Senate bill during Memorial Day weekend, rushing the bill through a Sunday committee hearing. The amendment was introduced by Democratic state representative Kelly Cassidy, who had seen a standalone bill stall in committee. She did not respond to request for comment.
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Cassidy defended the bill as a response to pro-life legislation passed in Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri. Rep. Avery Bourne, a Republican, took to the Illinois House floor prior to the vote to argue against the bill.
"This bill is not about keeping abortion legal in Illinois," Bourne, who is pregnant, said. "This is about a massive expansion that will impact viable babies. And that is wrong."
The bill would give Illinois the most liberal abortion regime in the country. Peter Breen, a former Illinois state representative and vice president at the non-profit Thomas More Society, said it would make the Land of Lincoln the "abortion capital" of America. He said it would exploit "vulnerable women and girls," as well as toss out widely popular compromises. The bill could undermine the state parental notification law and a state ban on partial birth abortion—a practice in which a full-term baby is delivered feet-first while the head is purposely kept inside the mother so abortionists can suck the brain out. Polling has found more than 70 percent of Americans, including majorities of Democrats, approve of such bans. The federal partial birth abortion ban will remain in effect.
"These legislators have rejected the deep convictions of a strong majority of Illinoisans and voted to legalize late-term abortions without limit … This bill expressly strips all rights from unborn children and wipes nearly every abortion regulation off the books in Illinois," Breen said in a statement. "The legacy of any legislator who voted for this bill is a cruel dehumanization on a mass scale."
The Illinois House approved the bill by a 64-50 vote. Opposition to it drew bipartisan support with six Democrats voting no and four voting present. There is little Republicans can do to prevent the bill from becoming law as Democrats have a supermajority. Gov. J.B. Pritzker praised his party-mates for passing the bill.
"We must do everything in our power to protect women's rights in Illinois," he said in a statement following the vote.
Pro-life activists in the state and nationwide criticize the bill as "radical" and "extremist." Illinois Right to Life mustered fierce opposition to the bill, including a rally against late-term abortion that organizers said attracted 4,000 people.
"No words can express the disappointment and heartache pro-life Illinoisans, like myself, are feeling," Illinois Right to Life Action legislative chairman Ralph Rivera said in a release. "The incredible grassroots efforts of Illinois citizens who worked against this bill was astounding and makes it clear that we were in the majority."
Mary Kate Knorr of Illinois Right to Life Action accused the Democrats behind the bill of sacrificing their constituents for campaign donations. She pointed to Personal PAC, a pro-abortion group that dedicated about $2 million to outside spending over the last two years, in addition to contributing nearly $350,000 to candidates, according to the National Institute on Money in Politics. "They knew exactly what the people of the state wanted, but they sided with the promise of Personal PAC's campaign money in the upcoming election," Knorr said.
National pro-life leaders also condemned the bill. Jill Stanek, an Illinois resident who serves as national campaign chair of the Susan B. Anthony List, said the legislation would make "Illinois a killing field." She said the bill threatens not only babies, but women seeking abortion and doctors or employers who object to the process. She questioned how pro-abortion advocates that argue that banning the practice would only lead to unregulated "back-alley abortions" could support legislation that lifts safety inspections.
"It allows abortions by a non-doctor, in a clinic that's not inspected and doesn't have to report injuries," she said in an email. "It allows self-abortions and forces all health insurance policies to cover abortions, including religious organizations."
Pro-life groups said that its passage should galvanize further activism. Knorr of Illinois Right to Life Action said the only way to rein in the movement for limitless abortion is to hold supporters accountable in the 2020 election.
"It is time for the pro-life people of Illinois to stand up," she said. "Legislators may have pretended not to hear when your voices echoed throughout the Capitol in March, but your vote in 2020 will send a message they can't ignore."
The bill will now be sent to the Democrat-controlled Senate to approve the amended language. If it passes, it will then be sent to Gov. Pritzker.