POLITICS
06/01/2019 11:01 EDT

Illinois Passes Sweeping Abortion Rights Legislation

The Reproductive Health Act removes decades-old provisions requiring spousal consent, waiting periods and criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions.

Illinois passed an expansive reproductive rights bill on Friday further protecting the right to an abortion as GOP-controlled state legislatures pass abortion bans throughout the country.

The state Senate passed the bill 34-20 down party lines after the House passed it 64-50 on May 28. The progressive bill is meant to strengthen abortion rights in Illinois and codify the state’s current practices in case the conservative-leaning Supreme Court overturns the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a person’s right to a safe and legal abortion.

“The Act sets forth the fundamental rights of individuals to make autonomous decisions about one’s own reproductive health, including the fundamental right to use or refuse reproductive health care,” the bill reads. It also restricts “the ability of the State to deny, interfere with, or discriminate against these fundamental rights.”

The bill’s passage repeals the 1975 Illinois Abortion Law and replaces it with the Reproductive Health Act, removing decades-old measures requiring spousal consent, waiting periods and criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions, among other restrictions. Courts had already blocked the criminal penalties measure before the new legislation repealed it.

The legislation also has clarifying language that treats abortion as health care.

“I believe, frankly, there’s a war against women’s rights going on,” said State Sen. Melinda Bush (D), the bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate, according to The Chicago Tribune.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D), the bill’s original sponsor, has said the bill came in response to the wave of states passing restrictive abortion laws that basically outlaw the procedure. Alabama passed the nation’s strictest abortion ban earlier this month, making it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion in almost all cases, including rape and incest

Georgia and Mississippi signed so-called “fetal heartbeat” bills that prohibit the procedure as soon as doctors detect cardiac activity in an embryo, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. People often don’t even know they’re pregnant at that point. Missouri’s last abortion clinic will likely close soon because the state refuses to renew its annual license, effectively cutting off abortion access in the state.

The bans are a direct attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, with states hoping legal challenges to their laws will bring them before the Supreme Court. Seven states have so-called “trigger laws” that would immediately ban abortion if the historic ruling is overturned.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois commended state lawmakers for passing the bill, saying, “As states across the nation rush to implement dangerous abortion bans, Illinois has responded ― by recognizing reproductive health care as a fundamental right, and by removing outdated, long-blocked statutes that make providing many forms of abortion care and some contraceptives a crime.”

The Catholic Conference of Illinois has previously called the bill too extreme and a “collective moral failure.”

The bill now heads to the desk of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), who has consistently voiced his support for the bill and for abortion rights. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) has also vocally supported the legislation, previously telling ABC 7 that it’s time to “double down on protections” for women in Illinois.