Chicago police won’t help investigate those who seek abortions here under new order from Mayor Lori Lightfoot

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CHICAGO — Chicago will ban its police officers from assisting out-of-state law enforcement in investigating people who travel here for abortions under an executive order signed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday.

The new directive comes a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ended nearly 50 years of constitutional protection for abortion in a stunning overturning of Roe v. Wade, leaving Illinois as the Midwest’s haven state for the procedure or medication that has been banned in about half the country since then.

In rolling out the executive order at a news conference, Lightfoot said other states were engaged in a “race to the bottom,” with a rash of recent legislation in states that in some cases include no exceptions for rape or incest. There have also been laws cracking down on those who get or aid in abortions by subjecting them to lawsuits or arrest.

“You have a right to make medical decisions without fear of retaliation, prosecution or further harm, period,” Lightfoot said. “We can ensure that as a city government, we are never complicit in aiding and abetting those efforts. … We will not collaborate with people who want to deny women’s rights.”

No states have laws specifically to penalize residents who travel out of state for an abortion yet, but several have seen Republican legislators propose them, including in neighboring Missouri.

The mayor’s executive order means Chicago police and other city agencies cannot participate in any out-of-state investigation that seeks to punish someone for getting an abortion or other reproductive health care in Illinois. It comes after Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, 33rd, introduced legislation that would codify the same rules.

“Our bodies and our ability to make decisions and exercise autonomy over them are the most basic expression of our humanity, and without that possibility we are in fact stripped of our humanity,” Rodriguez Sanchez said.

Lightfoot said Thursday she intends to get that ordinance passed when City Council reconvenes in September.

Officers would be barred from making arrests or giving information or access to someone who is wanted by another state for seeking an abortion, contraception or gender-affirming care, under Rodriguez Sanchez’s proposal. The inclusion of the last piece comes after Texas enacted a law allowing the treatment for transgender people to be investigated as child abuse.

“This executive order that’s being issued by Mayor Lori Lightfoot today is paving the way to ensure that in the city of Chicago, we codify protections for reproductive rights,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th, another legislation co-sponsor. “Reproductive rights are human rights.”

There could be legal consequences for the city spurning another state’s request for assistance, but Lightfoot signaled she isn’t worried.

“We want to make sure that we set the line in an unambiguous way, that we’re not going to be complicit in living out the dreams of another state that wants to criminalize women for seeking access to health care,” Lightfoot said. “Fundamentally, I’m going to be very dubious of an order that comes from a state court.”

A Chicago police officer who violates the restrictions could be subject to an investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, under the proposed ordinance. It would also provide referrals to abortion, contraception and gender-affirming care services for anyone who calls 311.

The other proposed ordinance from Rodriguez Sanchez would double the $500,000 that Lightfoot pledged toward abortion access in May, when a draft opinion of the Supreme Court decision leaked. The legislation would earmark a total of $1 million for the public health department to go toward reproductive health care, transportation, lodging, security escorts to abortion clinics and a legal defense fund. That appropriation would be renewed annually.

Lightfoot did not say what she thinks about that abortion defense fund proposal from Rodriguez Sanchez, though in June she had said her $500,000 pledge was merely a “down payment.” But she signaled interest in an annual investment in abortion access.

“It’s early to put a number on it,” Lightfoot said about how much money the city should dedicate. “We’ve got to talk more with the providers. We’ve got to see what the data is providing us. But it’s going to be a healthy number, there’s no question about it.”