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Pro-life pregnancy centers, doctors challenge IL mandatory abortion referral rules

By Scott Holland | Sep 30, 2016

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A group of Illinois’ pro-life pregnancy centers and an obstetrical practice have filed a complaint about the state’s new mandatory referral rules, arguing the law forces “them to speak a message contrary to their mission.” 

The suit, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, was filed Sept. 29 in federal court in Chicago. Plaintiffs are the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, of Virginia; Illinois nonprofit agencies, including Informed Choices, of Grayslake and Crystal Lake; TLC Pregnancy Services, of Elgin; and Mosaic Pregnancy & Health Centers, of Granite City; as well as Maryville Women’s Center and its owner, Dr. Tina Gingrich. Named defendants are Gov. Bruce Rauner and Bryan A. Schneider, secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. 

At issue is Senate Bill 1564, an amendment to the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act, which Rauner signed into law July 29. The complaint says the law forces the plaintiffs “to violate their consciences and beliefs by either referring women for abortions, transferring a patient to an abortion provider, or providing a patient asking for abortion with a list of providers they reasonably believe may perform the abortion.” 

Specifically, they argue the law “is a classic example of compelled speech” violating First and 14th Amendment rights, as well as speech rights guaranteed by the Illinois state constitution. They also say SB 1675 violates the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act “because it forces medical facilities and physicians … to violate their religious convictions without serving a compelling government interest in a least restrictive way, and it treats some religious beliefs more favorably than others.” 

NIFLA is a network that has some 40 Illinois member affiliates in DeKalb, Crystal Lake, Johnsburg, Rock Falls and Rockford, including Informed Choices, TLC and Mosaic. In addition to her role at Maryville Women’s Center, Gingrich is the medical director for Mosaic. 

The complaint details the way in which the state’s new law directly affects the way they attempt fulfill their mission of providing alternatives to abortion — “the reasons they entered the medical profession” — specifically a clause stating: “All health care facilities shall adopt written access to care and information protocols that are designed to ensure that conscience-based objections do not cause impairment of patients’ health and that explain how conscience-based objections will be addressed in a timely manner to facilitate patient health care services.” 

Referring patients to, or discussing with them, providers that “may provide surgical abortion, abortion causing drugs and devices, and contraception,” they argued, directly violates “the religious and moral beliefs and conscience” of the facilities and their staff members. They also argue SB 1564 requires them “to tell every patient they treat that abortion is a ‘legal treatment option’ ” and that Rauner and the state “believe that there are several ‘benefits’ to abortion that plaintiffs must describe to every pregnant woman pursuant to SB 1564.” 

The complaint cites testimony from American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lori Chaiten, identified as an author of SB 1564, delivered at a May 13, 2015, Human Services Committee Hearing, in which she explained the bill compels all providers beyond simply providing a list of pro-life doctors or a generic list of doctors absent reference to their positions on abortion. 

In addition to requesting a jury trial, the centers want the court to stop the state from enforcing SB 1564 and to award them their legal fees and any other relief determined fair. 

Representatives for the plaintiffs include attorneys from the firm of Mauck & Baker, of Chicago; the Alliance Defending Freedom, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Washington, D.C.; and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, of Fredericksburg, Va.

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Organizations in this Story

Mauck & Baker LLCAlliance Defending Freedom