An Illinois House committee on Sunday night voted 12-7 in support of an amendment to an abortion rights bill, advancing a controversial measure that had been stalled for months.
The bill, which is being sponsored by Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat, finally appeared poised to move forward last week, after a lengthy discussion by the House Democratic Caucus. Sunday’s vote came hours after the measure was sent to the House Appropriations Committee.
There has been a renewed sense of urgency behind the measure after several states passed restrictive abortion laws, and concerns that court cases slated to be decided after the General Assembly adjourns could result in injunctions being lifted on some pieces of the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, Cassidy said. […]
The bill repeals the state’s current abortion law and replaces it with a new law that removes measures involving spousal consent, waiting periods, criminal penalties for physicians who perform abortions and other restrictions on facilities where abortions are performed. The amendment to the bill that was filed on Sunday seeks to clarify the definitions of viability and health, which Cassidy said were developed through discussions with colleagues.
* Capitol News Illinois…
One [amendment, Emily Werth, an attorney with the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberty Union] said, makes “explicitly clear” a health care provider who has a moral, ethical or religious objection to abortions do not have to participate in performing one. The Reproductive Health Act would repeal several statutes in existing law that refuse to take part in such procedures, leaving one law, the Health Care Right of Conscience Act in place. […]
The newly-filed act also clarifies a contentious point among opponents — that the Reproductive Health Act requires private insurance companies regulated by the state to cover abortion procedures if they also cover pregnancy-related benefits. It now allows for cost-sharing provisions, such as copayments, so long as they do not exceed those that apply to pregnancy-related coverage.
Finally, Werth said, the bill clarifies that physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses can only “provide abortion care that is otherwise consistent with what is within their scope of practice and their professional licensing act.” […]
“The opponents to the bill have really focused, unfortunately, on later abortion, which is rare — but they have focused in on that and have been saying some things that are frankly, at best misleading and at worst completely untrue about the legislation,” said Brigid Leahy, senior director for public policy for Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “We have added in clarifying language [on viability] that basically clarifies what is happening right now in Illinois, what the standard is right now and what it has been for many, many years.”
* Illinois Public Radio…
Sponsoring state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Democrat from Chicago, said it’s about trusting women and their doctors to make the best choice for their health and lifestyle.
“My abortion was medically necessary,” Cassidy told her colleagues. “It saved my life. It preserved my fertility. It allowed for the creation of my family, my children, who are my world.”
Hannah Meisel was live-tweeting the bill’s progress last night. Click here for that.
* Things did become contentious…
While objecting to bill, several Republicans also took issue with the way the amendment was brought to committee, saying it prevented opponents from being able to testify against the legislation.
Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, objected that the hearing notice was posted online only an hour in advance.
“No one from my district could have made it here to testify on this bill with one hour’s notice,” Demmer said. “I imagine that’s true of many of my constituents.”
Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said SB 25 was “hijacked” to make sure the bill was heard on Sunday night of a holiday weekend.
″(It’s) what I would consider secrecy,” she said. “It was rushed. … I’m disappointed that it’s been handled this way.”
* Illinois’ Catholic bishops…
During the past week, we have watched supporters of the misnamed “Reproductive Health Act” propel the legislation into the end-of-session rush. The introduced version of the bill dramatically rewrites current abortion law, going further than Roe v. Wade in stripping human rights and dignity from the unborn child with this single statement: “A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of this State.” The fundamental premise of the bill is flawed, and no amendment or tweak to the language will change the fact that it is designed to rob the vulnerable life in the womb of any trace of human dignity and value.
On Memorial Day, there will be five days left in the legislative session set to end on May 31. Major issues that will require bipartisan cooperation and unity among lawmakers remain, such as passing a balanced budget for the health, education and safety of Illinois residents and crafting a statewide construction plan with unresolved funding. Conversations on these matters need to take place in an atmosphere of comity and civility, and any talk of abortion will only sow more divisiveness and disharmony in today’s polarized political climate.
We ask that lawmakers set aside consideration of the “Reproductive Health Act,” especially since no final form of the bill has been published, vetted through hearings or fully discussed.
* Planned Parenthood…
Statement from Jennifer Welch, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Illinois
”I am grateful to Chairwoman Robyn Gabel for calling the Reproductive Health Care Act to a vote in the Human Services Appropriations. The time for recognizing abortion as health care in Illinois is long overdue. We’re looking forward to the bill moving quickly through committee to a full vote in the General Assembly and off to the Governor’s desk for his signature.”
* Mayor Lightfoot…
I applaud the legislators who voted yes tonight on the passage of the Reproductive Health Act. With the onslaught of attacks against reproductive rights happening all across the country, we must act to double down on protections here in Illinois. The time is now to ensure that we preserve access to safe, legal abortion in our state. We won’t go backwards. The full General Assembly must act swiftly to pass the RHA.
* ‘Just seems cruel’: 800-mile trip to end severely troubled pregnancy illustrates divide on abortion laws