A simple truth of the past few years is that ideological anti-abortion forces will use any excuse, any opportunity and any misinformation to advance their cause. Pushing legislation based on faulty, even non-existent, science? No problem. A single anecdote or news story taken out of context? Push reckless state legislation designed to invite our nation’s Supreme Court to strike down the fundamental holding in Roe v. Wade.
With this recent history, it is little wonder that politicians committed to ending access to safe and legal abortion have used the global pandemic as a shameful excuse to advance their reckless agenda.
Happily, the State of Illinois has rejected that path, assuring that abortion care remains available and accessible. Governor JB Pritzker’s executive order EO 2020-10 (COVID EO No. 8) responding to the pandemic specifically listed “reproductive healthcare providers” as providing critical care, meaning that residents in Illinois may leave their homes to access this health care. This inclusion is consistent with what medical experts at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have said: “Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care. It is also a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible. The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.”
The Governor’s recognition of the critical nature of abortion care is not happenstance, nor a stroke of luck in this moment. Our State continues to value access to health care--all health care. Last year, reflecting this value, Illinois adopted the Reproductive Health Act, enshrining in state law that the ability to have an abortion is a fundamental.
The push for abortion restrictions has been historically rooted in sexism towards women. Even beyond our work to draft, lobby and implement the RHA, the ACLU of Illinois has fought for decades to eliminate barriers to accessing abortion care, including the very types of barriers that now are pushing abortion care even more out of reach in other states. These include waiting periods before one can access abortion, requirements for forced and unnecessary ultrasounds before treatment is provided, forced state-mandated lectures on supposed “harms” from abortion care, and attempts to apply stringent regulations on clinics that provide abortion care in hopes of making the care virtually impossible.
All of these restrictions have been resisted in Illinois.
Still, we have work to do in our state and beyond our borders. Illinois still enforces a dangerous and unnecessary Parental Notification of Abortion law forcing minors seeking abortion care in our state to notify one of a designated set of adults before they seek care. It is harmful and we must repeal this law. And we need Illinois legislators to continue to lead the fight to repeal the federal ban on government-provided health care covering abortion care.
We know making these changes will be hard. Our opponents are organized and dedicated. Their willingness to use a pandemic in which tens of thousands of our neighbors, friends and family members have died to advance their agenda is proof. But we are not letting up and we will not ignore their persistent efforts to restrict fundamental rights.