'We've planned for this terrible day': Pritzker calls for special session on abortion rights

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is calling for a special session to tighten abortion rights in Illinois after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade Friday.

"The extremists on the Supreme Court have made an abhorrent decision - one rooted in partisan games - leaving an indelible stain on our nation," Pritzker said at a briefing.

"They've just taken away rights from over half of the United States," he said. "Right now, it's abortion they're taking away. Next, it will be birth control and other contraceptives. Next: fertility treatment. They are coming to take away women's power to become mothers at the time of their choosing."

Pritkzer is calling a special session of the General Assembly in the coming weeks "to further enshrine our commitment to reproductive health care rights and protections."

The General Assembly has passed extensive abortion rights legislation and Pritzker has signalled Illinois will be a haven state for women in states where the procedure is banned or severely restricted.

"In Illinois, we've planned for this terrible day, an enormous step backward and a shattering loss of rights," Pritzker said.

He warned overturning Roe would lead to injuries and death and noted that the old Cook County Hospital once provided a septic ward to treat women seriously ill after botched abortions.

"From 1961 to 1965 alone, (Cook) doctors managed the aftermath of over 20,000 illegal abortions. Because abortions were illegal, desperate women sought out desperate solutions," Pritzker said.

Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie argued 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.

"This is clearly not what mainstream Illinoisans want," the Hawthorn Woods resident said in a statement. "While the governor is calling a special session to act on these and potentially other extreme measures, Illinoisans are trying to deal with soaring gas prices and massive grocery bills that are leaving families hopeless. Instead of dealing with these vital issues, Pritzker is embracing an extreme agenda that will make Illinois an outlier even amongst the most liberal states."

Asked about funding, Pritzker said "we don't provide direct subsidies to people coming from other states, we support the women of Illinois with a lot of funding to make sure they can exercise their rights. People who come from other states do benefit from the capacity building that we do, from support that we provide to providers so they can build their professionals, and there's more we can do. But we start first and foremost protecting the women of Illinois."

Regarding the special session, the state may consider "expanding the availability of health care professionals so that we can manage through what is likely to be an increase in people seeking to exercise their reproductive rights coming to Illinois from other states," Pritzker said.

He added "we need to make sure we're ready" for a migration of women who want abortions.

Lawmakers from both parties were quick to address the ruling in statements.

"I am outraged and horrified - this outcome is a nightmare that robs women of their right to make their own choices about their healthcare and their bodies, and it paves the way for a nationwide abortion ban that Republicans have been seeking for decades," U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said.

Sen. Dick Durbin also panned the court's decision.

"Today's decision eliminates a federally protected constitutional right that has been the law for nearly half a century," he said. "As a result, millions of Americans are waking up in a country where they have fewer rights than their parents and grandparents.

Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of downstate Taylorville celebrated "a historic and incredible day for life and the unborn in America, a day that all of us in the pro-life movement have been praying for and working towards.

"The Supreme Court was absolutely right to overturn previous, wrongly-decided abortion decisions. Nothing in the Constitution confers the right to an abortion," Davis added in a statement.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Highland Park said the court's opinion will stain the legacy of the Supreme Court.

"We know that, as a result, women will die, families will fall into poverty, and America will be immeasurably poorer," Schneider said.

U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, a La Grange Democrat who recently publicly disclosed she had an abortion at 19, called Friday's decision "barbaric, cruel and a harrowing blow to gender equality."

"When you take away a woman's right to decide when and under what circumstances to have a child, you take away her agency over her life, body and future," said Newman, who represents Illinois' 3rd District but is running in the 6th in Tuesday's primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove.

"I am heartbroken thinking about the young women in the same position I was 40 years ago who have just lost their freedom to make that same decision," Newman said.

Casten, also an outspoken supporter of abortion rights, said he was outraged by the decision in a tweet.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville shared his anger on social media, too.

"Make no mistake: this decision is the culmination of a decades-long attack by extreme politicians to exert power and control over women's bodily autonomy," wrote Foster, who serves the 11th District.

In her own social media posts, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston called abortion "a fundamental right."

"Lawmakers have a responsibility to the American people to protect their rights to health care, privacy, and decision-making about their own bodies," said Schakowsky, of the 9th District.

U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat serving the 8th District, called the decision "a tragic, devastating rollback of nearly half a century of progress and precedent in protecting reproductive rights, the right to bodily autonomy, the right to privacy, and the rights of women."

"Unfortunately, this is likely only the beginning of this extreme, right-wing court's attacks on the rights of Americans," Krishnamoorthi added.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, a Naperville Democrat serving the 14th District, said it's "a dark day"for women and Americans.

"Americans have never, ever, lost a constitutional right. Unfortunately, that's now no longer true," Underwood said.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley said "today's decision is a shocking reversal of a half century of settled law on women's rights," said the Chicagoan whose 5th District stretches deep into the suburbs. "This decision will cost lives."

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush said the opinion "turned back the clock on women's rights."

The Chicago Democrat warned "this decision currently hurts poor, rural, and disadvantaged women in conservative states the most, but it has the potential to affect every woman in this country as it opens the door for a future GOP-controlled Congress to pass a national ban."

• Daily Herald Staff Writers Russell Lissau and Jake Griffin contributed to this report.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker wants the General Assembly to convene a special session to tighten abortion rights in Illinois. Associated Press/June 1, 2021
Dick Durbin
Bobby Rush
Brad Schneider
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