CHICAGO — A recent federal injunction could signal the end of an Illinois law that critics say forces pregnancy physicians to promote abortion.
The injunction, filed in Rockford federal court by U.S. District Judge Frederick Kapala, granted a win to a group of pro-life doctors and pregnancy center who had accused the state of violating their free speech rights. They had filed suit last year.
Because the order covers all Illinois pregnancy centers, it is also a minor victory for a lawsuit against Illinois officials filed earlier this year by the Thomas More Society on behalf of more than 20 doctors and pregnancy centers. Both cases are calling for an end to SB 1564, a law that requires all doctors providing reproductive health services to inform patients about the option of abortion.
The injunction stated that the law “targets the free speech rights of people who have a specific viewpoint.”
Thomas Olp, an attorney for the Thomas More Society, told the Cook County Record that his legal team and the plaintiffs are "very happy" with the injunction. He said that the plaintiffs agree that the law does, in fact, violate the free speech of physicians who have pro-life viewpoints.
"The state has the authority to regulate professions so they can set more standards for a professional regulation," Olp said. "The state has said [regarding SB 1564], 'Hey, this is just a standard of professional regulation.' But from the plaintiffs' point of view, it's not. The state is requiring pro-life physicians to speak in a way that it determines when it comes to such an inherently moral, divisive issue. This implicates free speech."
Olp said that because "the abortion industry, particularly the ACLU" have strongly supported SB 1564 and similar regulations, it has created a lot of conflict throughout the pregnancy care community.
"There's a war over abortion going on between the people that want to mainstream abortion and not view it as a moral issue, and the people who view it as inherently a moral issue," Olp said. "From the pro-life perspective, [SB 1564] is viewed as an attempt by the pro-abortion forces to put their foot in the door to force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion and to treat it as a non-moral, regular decision that a woman can make, just like any other decision. There's two different worldviews going on here."
Olp said that while the injunction is progress, the fight is not yet over.
"The state has an opportunity to make its case," Olp said. "So, the ultimate decision [on banning the bill] may be months away, or even up to a year."