What will General Assembly special session on abortion rights entail?

Supporting women traveling a distance for an abortion, expanding the definition of who can perform the procedure and protecting providers could be among the policies Illinois lawmakers vote on during a special session, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

Experts predict the number of abortions performed in Illinois could triple as neighboring states restrict access to the procedure after the Supreme Court's June 24 reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Pritzker called for the General Assembly to convene right after the decision to secure access to abortion, but last week, he and Democratic leaders said they needed time to study the fallout and its impact on Illinois.

When the special session occurs in the coming months, expect policies addressing logistics, Pritzker said in a recent interview.

“We have laws in place, but what about capacity?” he said. “For example, there are people seeking to exercise their reproductive rights, our residents as well as those coming from other states. We need to make sure we can provide those services.

“Do we have enough health care professionals available? The answer is ‘no,' and so we want to make that sure we're doing things like ... allowing advanced practice nurses to perform (abortions). They do this in other states, and we need the legislature to approve that in this state.”

“We also want to look at capacity,” Pritzker added, “literally the amount of space that may be available for our clinics.

“And finally, there are logistics centers that need to be supported so people who come from, perhaps, rural areas of the state and don't have reproductive rights readily available to them, they can come to another part of the state, find a place to stay overnight, make sure they can get a meal somewhere. If they need to seek out help from private foundations to support their reproductive rights, there are logistics centers that we can support.”

Pritzker said the state will not fund non-Illinois residents' abortions.

Illinois is bordered by a number of states like Missouri and Indiana that will or are restricting abortion access.

“We look like an island in a red sea, and we know that people will be spilling over the borders,” University of Illinois College of Law Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson said.

Fretwell Wilson and a colleague have estimated Illinois may be the closest state for about 102,600 women a year seeking abortions. In 2020, 46,243 abortions occurred in Illinois.

“If you're going to make good on the promise to Illinois women that they have reproductive access, you're going to have to build up capacity,” Fretwell Wilson said.

Legislators may consider altering policies to recognize valid medical licenses from other jurisdictions or expedite licenses for facilities like clinics “since clinics are the backbone of the industry,” Fretwell Wilson said.

There may be provisions for expanding pharmacies in underserved areas near the border and assisting abortion providers who are sued by people in neighboring states, she said.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, the Republican nominee for governor, said “the frustrating thing is that Gov. Pritzker is trying to make this election on abortion.”

Bailey said he and other Republican lawmakers have tried to reconvene the General Assembly “to give tax relief, to make our streets safe again and make changes to the education system as school is approaching, and we've been ignored.”

“Yet with the overturn of Roe v. Wade, he's got the audacity to call a special session so we can open doors and force taxpayers to fund more of his agenda.”

Bailey added, “The overturn of Roe v. Wade is an amazing constitutional feat that returns the power to the states where it rightfully belongs for every state to set their course.”

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Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey said Republicans have tried to reconvene the General Assembly "to give tax relief, to make our streets safe again and make changes to the education system, and we've been ignored." Associated Press
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