SPRINGFIELD — Eighteen Illinois women’s health organizations have sued the state of Illinois and Gov. Bruce Rauner over a new law that forces pro-life doctors and pregnancy resource centers to discuss abortion benefits and to refer pregnant women for abortions despite the medical providers' opposition to the procedure.
The legislation in question, initially labeled Senate Bill 1564 and signed by Rauner, amended the Health Care Right of Conscience Act at the beginning of the year and has left over 90 Illinois nonprofit pregnancy resource centers with no choice but to file suit, according to the Thomas More Society, which is representing the resource centers. The centers are seeking judgement that the law unconstitutionally takes away their rights to free speech and disregards their religious beliefs.
“The law's primary aim, in our clients' view, is to mainstream discussion of abortion as a morally legitimate treatment option in discussions with patients contrary to the position of conscientious objectors who believe that elective abortion is always morally wrong and never a 'beneficial' treatment option," Thomas Olp, attorney at the Thomas More Society, told the Cook County Record. "Pro-life pregnancy resource centers are more than just collateral damage in the operation of this law."
The Thomas More Society filed for injunctive relief on behalf of 18 of the centers, citing violations of multiple rights under the Illinois state constitution. Some centers have stopped medical services, which include pregnancy tests, sonograms and sexually transmitted disease testing until the legal issues are resolved.
“The harms are several-fold," Olp said. "There is the legal harm, the constitutional injury to the rights of the pregnancy resource centers to free speech and religious freedom. The law requires pregnancy resource centers to voice a government message about abortion's so-called benefits and requires them to refer or give information about abortion services to the very persons they want to empower to choose not to have an elective abortion. In that respect, the government is interfering with the centers' work and for no good reason given that information about abortion is readily available from sources other than pregnancy resource centers. In addition, the law only targets centers with a conscientious objection to abortion. it leaves unregulated all health care providers who do not have a conscientious objection to abortion.”
The lawsuit was filed in the Sangamon County Circuit Court in Springfield. It charges Rauner and Bryan Schneider, secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, with several constitutional violations.
“Since the law's provisions are being objected to based on the consciences of the centers, if the centers elect to close or eliminate medical services rather than to comply, the number of women assisted by these centers would plummet, and the number of abortions would rise,” Olp said.