Illinois enacts safeguard for abortion patients, providers

Jan 12, 2023, 8:37 PM | Updated: Jan 13, 2023, 12:25 pm
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs House Bill 4664, a bill that will further protect reproductive he...

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs House Bill 4664, a bill that will further protect reproductive health care providers and patients who are seeking care in Illinois, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in Chicago. (Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

(Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed into law sweeping reproductive health care legislation to protect out-of-state abortion seekers, adding Illinois to the list of states that have placed legal reinforcements around the procedure after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In addition to shielding reproductive and gender-affirming health care patients and providers from legal action originating across state lines, the act will also protect the Illinois licenses of health care providers licensed in multiple states who provide treatment legal in Illinois but may cost them their license in a state where it’s not. The measure also prevents insurers from charging more for out-of-network care when in-network providers object to treatment on moral grounds.

“Here in Illinois, we know that reproductive care is health care,” Pritzker said. “A medical decision should be made between a patient and their health care provider.”

Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June left abortion legalization up to the states, Planned Parenthood of Illinois has seen people seeking treatment from 33 states, compared with 10 to 15 before the ruling. Planned Parenthood spokesperson Mary Jane Maharry said roughly 30% of its patients are from outside of Illinois, compared to about 6% pre-Dobbs.

Following the high court’s decree, many Illinois lawmakers and advocacy groups urged Pritzker to call a special legislative session to bolster Illinois’ protections. Instead, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch formed working groups on abortion and other top priorities, including one which led to a ban on semiautomatic weapons Pritzker signed into law Tuesday.

The so-called Dobbs Decision working group was led by Chicago Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy. Speaking before a dozen lawmakers and advocates at Pritzker’s Chicago news conference, she proclaimed the law just the beginning.

“We will have to respond to the new ways that bully states will come up with to attack patients and providers,” Cassidy said. “Our mission is clear: If you want to come after people seeking care or their providers, if your mission is to torment trans kids and their families, you’re going to have to get through all of us first.”

Mary Kate Zander, head of anti-abortion organization Illinois Right to Life, said the governor’s “pro-abortion legacy is, in practice, harming women and depriving unborn children of an opportunity at life. This may be politically expedient for Gov. Pritzker today, but it won’t age well.”

But the measure’s Senate sponsor, Democratic Sen. Celina Villanueva of Chicago, said such sensitive decisions should be left to individuals.

“This legislation consolidates Illinois as an island that protects reproductive and gender-affirming rights in the Midwest,” Villaneuva said. “It places our state at the forefront of a nation for granting people the freedom to make their life decisions.”

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O’Connor reported from Springfield, Ill.

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Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Illinois enacts safeguard for abortion patients, providers