Illinois governor calls special legislative session on reproductive rights

Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS
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CHICAGO — Illinois politicians reacted swiftly and along party lines to Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Democratic legislative leaders immediately announcing they plan to call a special legislative session to strengthen the state’s already-stringent protections for reproductive rights.

Surrounded by other Democratic leaders and abortion rights advocates at the Howard Brown Health Clinic in Rogers Park, Pritzker said the high court’s decision was the product of “the radical majority Donald Trump and his right-wing allies created on the Supreme Court.”

“Privacy rights are being eviscerated right before our very eyes,” he said. “If they can take away your ability to control your own body, there’s not much that stops them from making marriage equality illegal and taking away employment protections for your beliefs or your orientation.

“No ifs, ands or buts about it: we are headed down a dangerous spiral that will erode our democracy.”

Among other issues, Pritzker said he wants lawmakers to take up legislation expanding the ranks of those who can provide abortion services to prepare for the anticipated influx of out-of-state residents seeking the procedure in Illinois.

In an election year when Democrats are facing potential headwinds on the economy and other issues, Pritzker said he thinks the court’s decision will galvanize voters behind his party.

“A strong majority people in the state of Illinois are pro-choice,” he said. “We’ve elected pro- choice legislator, we’ve electrd pro-choice leaders statewide. The people of Illinois want to maintain these rights. And so they are going to act accordingly. I believe that people are going to come out and vote in very big numbers to protect their individual rights.”

The ruling comes just four days before Tuesday’s Illinois primary election. The six GOP candidates for governor all have said that they, to varying degrees, oppose abortion.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin has been the most circumspect on the issue. He calls himself “pro-life” and said he supports exceptions for abortions in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother. He also said he would seek to reinstitute a parental notification requirement in Illinois for minors seeking an abortion.

But he has refused to say whether he supports a federal ban on abortion or the overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision. In a statement Friday after his campaign was asked to respond to Friday’s decision, he continued to walk a fine line on the issue and did not respond directly to the Supreme Court action.

“As a pro-life Republican, I will continue to fight for every parent’s right to know if a minor child is having an abortion — a right JB Pritzker has outrageously taken away,” Irvin said. “With Democratic majorities in the Illinois General Assembly, this Supreme Court ruling will have no effect on the law in our state.”

In a Facebook post, state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, who’s running in Tuesday’s Republican primary for governor, called Friday’s decision “a historic and welcomed moment.”

“As I have consistently stated for several months, as Governor, I will work to remove taxpayer-funded abortion and restore parental notification in Illinois,” Bailey said. “I will also work with the legislature, civic groups, and nonprofits to support women during and after pregnancy, to make adoption easier, and abortion unnecessary.”

Republican candidate for governor Jesse Sullivan tweeted out a video lauding the Supreme Court decision under the headline, “God is good.”

“Now the battle for life in the front lines moves right here to Illinois,” Sullivan says in the video while clutching an squirming infant.

Another GOP candidate for governor, Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine, tweeted: “Thanks to President Trump for appointing conservative Justices that finally ended 50 years of abortion in the United States.”

The 6th District sweeps through Chicago’s south and west suburbs, areas with more conservative voters. While the Democratic candidates share similar views, the abortion question might become an issue in the general election.

Republican U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood of Peoria in a statement blasted Pritzker for continuing “to push his radical abortion agenda in Illinois, which includes late-term and taxpayer-funded abortion, restrictions on conscience protections, and limits on parental involvement. The Governor’s policies are widely outside the mainstream.”

Illinois Senate Republican Leader, Dan McConchie took a similar tack, saying in a statement “Pritzker and many Illinois Democrats want to push Illinois to the utter extreme on abortion policy.

“Right now, Illinoisans can already get an abortion in all nine months of pregnancy for any reason and use taxpayer dollars to pay for it. But that’s not enough. Now, they want us to help pay for out-of-state residents to travel to Illinois to receive abortions and even allow non-physicians here to perform them.”

Illinois Republican House leader Jim Durkin said in a statement “Illinois Democrats have already passed the most progressive abortion laws in the country, including allowing a minor child to get an abortion without notifying their parents. This ruling will do nothing to protect those young girls in Illinois.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin issued a statement saying “millions of Americans are waking up in a country where they have fewer rights than their parents and grandparents,” because of Friday’s decision.

“The bottom line: on critical, personal choices involving a woman’s right to make reproductive decisions about her own body, do you trust her or the government? The Supreme Court now says a woman’s right to privacy does not extend to the most personal, private choice she will ever face”

Durbin chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he said “will explore the grim reality of a post-Roe America in a hearing next month.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat who’s up for reelection this year, said she was “outraged and horrified” by the Supreme Court decision.

“This outcome is a nightmare that robs women of their right to make their own choices about their health care and their bodies, and it paves the way for a nationwide abortion ban that Republicans have been seeking for decades,” Duckworth said in a statement.

“In a nation with a growing maternal mortality crisis and often inaccessible health care, without affordable child care or universal paid leave, forcing births on anyone—even when the mother’s life could be at risk—is not only cruel, it will also be deadly,” Duckworth said.

In a statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot pledged to increase reproductive health care access in Chicago but said the court’s decision had a broader impact, warning it “will be used as precedent to gut the legal underpinnings used to protect against gender-based discrimination, which includes women’s rights, trans rights, immigrant rights, and of course, the right to same same sex and interracial marriage.”

Illinois lawmakers in recent years have acted to protect abortion rights and make the procedure more accessible.

In December, Pritzker signed a measure to repeal a requirement that abortion providers notify the parents of minors seeking the procedure. In 2019, Pritzker signed into law legislation that established the “fundamental right” of women to have an abortion, and stated that a “fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have independent rights.”

In signing the 2019 bill, Pritzker said it is a preventive measure that “ensures that women’s rights do not hinge on the fate of Roe v. Wade, or the whims of an increasingly conservative Supreme Court in Washington.”

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(Chicago Tribune reporter Ray Long contributed to this report.)

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