Illinois lawmakers approve broadened abortion, gender protections for patients and providers

Illinois lawmakers on Tuesday approved a measure protecting access to abortion in Illinois from out-of-state meddling, making the state the latest to pursue such protections since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June.

The bill, which Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker's is expected to sign, would shield reproductive and gender-affirming health care patients and providers from legal action originating across state lines and widen access to reproductive care.

It would also protect the Illinois licenses of health care providers licensed in multiple states who provide treatment legal in Illinois but that might cost them their license in a state where it's not. And it would prevent insurers from charging more for out-of-network care when in-network providers object to treatment on moral grounds.

The Senate approved the proposal 41-16, but it made changes to the legislation the House had sent over. After ironing out differences, the House endorsed it 70-39. Proponents scrambled to win endorsement on the last day of session before a new General Assembly is sworn in Wednesday and the legislative process begins anew.

Abortion is legal in Illinois until the fetus can survive outside the womb, which usually occurs around six months of pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois said that since Roe was overturned, it has seen more out-of-state patients than ever. Before the high court's Dobbs decision that replaced Roe and left abortion up to states, Planned Parenthood saw patients from 10 to 15 other states besides Illinois, the agency said. Since then, its clinics have treated patients from 33 states.

Mary Kate Zander, who heads the abortion opposition group Illinois Right to Life, called on lawmakers to be more open in their debate. The Senate tacked its language onto an existing piece of legislation, so it didn't need the vetting required of a new bill, such as a public committee hearing.

"They know that the people in our state are not supportive of this type of legislation, because if they were, they would pass this legislation in a conventional way," Zander said.

Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey, who lost the governor's race to Democratic incumbent Pritzker in November but took great pains to ensure voters he wouldn't try to reverse Illinois' legal abortions, called the measure "pure evil" on the Senate floor.

"This is wrong. God help us," he said.

Ameri Klafeta, director of the Women's and Reproductive Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the legislation would help reinforce abortion protections in Illinois at a time when reproductive rights are under attack elsewhere in the country.

"We are not letting states like Texas, where there are attacks on abortion care and attacks on gender-affirming care, tell us in Illinois what care people can get in the state," she said.

Other states have also moved to protect abortion rights. The Democratic governors of Colorado, North Carolina and Hawaii issued executive orders to protect abortion providers and patients from extradition to states that have banned the procedure. And in November, voters in battleground Michigan enshrined abortion rights in their state's constitution - joining Democratic California and Vermont in taking that step.

Pritzker, who was sworn in Monday for a second term as governor, used his inaugural address similarly to propose a constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion access.

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