Illinois Bill Would Ensure Reproductive Health Access

Veronica Arreola

Opponents of the Illinois state Reproductive Health and Access Act are stoking fears on abortion. But the vast majority of Illinois residents support this comprehensive, reproductive justice-oriented bill.

Illinois could be on the verge of passing one of the most
progressive reproductive health bills, the Reproductive Health and Access Act, any state has seen in a long time.  HB 2354, now being considered by the full House, must be on the verge of passage,
because the anti-choice voices in the state are throwing around lie after lie
in any venue that they can find themselves in. Reports that children are coming home with flyers asking their parents, including at
least one Illinois State Representative, to oppose the bill, are coming in from around the
state. One elected
official was called out during Sunday services. Last week, Cardinal George of the
Chicago Archdiocese had a letter
to the editor published in the Chicago Sun-Times
based on a huge lie:

"[This bill will]
remove the right to conscientious objection to abortion and related procedures
for all health care workers."

The truth is that the bill protects the individual. Any
medical provider can object and walk away, but they must ensure that the
patient’s rights are honored. This means that Dr. Smith can object, but it does
not mean that Hospital Smith can object.

This bill is progressive and comprehensive, yet opponents
continue to focus on abortion as they know that the large majority of people,
including Catholics, support sex education, access to birth control and a
woman’s decision on how to birth her baby. The Illinois Reproductive Health and
Access Act bars the government from interfering with anyone’s ability to use
birth control, carry a pregnancy to term or terminate a pregnancy. The bill
requires all Illinois public schools to teach medically accurate, age
appropriate, comprehensive sex education. 
Parents would be allowed to remove their children from classes if they
don’t want them to participate. The bill makes sure that government-funded
health care programs, like Medicaid, cover basic reproductive health care
services like family planning, pre-natal care, and pap tests as they do for
other health care services. Opponents understand that playing the abortion card
will get them press and may deafen the ears of those who otherwise would be
supporting the bill.

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But the momentum is the coalition’s favor. Polling shows
that 71% of Illinoisans support this bill, even with the abortion provisions.
As of this writing, three state constitutional officers are in support
(Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, and
Secretary of State Jesse White) of the bill. Yet state elected officials have
been bombarded by calls from opponents of this bill. That is why the coalition
is asking everyone
to please call your state representatives
and tell them you want them to
vote YES on a comprehensive reproductive health bill for Illinois.

Some may question the need for this bill with the country under
the leadership of a pro-choice President and pro-choice Congress. The answer is
that if those things change, this law will be here for the women of Illinois. The
U.S. Supreme Court is still split on Roe v. Wade and one can’t quite tell what
they would do if they got the chance to overturn Roe today. But more
important is that this bill does not focus on just access to abortion or the
legality of abortion in Illinois. This bill is about ensuring that no woman be
forced to carry to term a pregnancy or forced to terminate her pregnancy. It is
about ensuring our children’s right to medically accurate sexuality education,
if we so choose, in their schools. It is about ensuring that a woman in the ER
has access to the morning after pill after a rape. It is about ensuring that a
woman’s right to choose extends to every choice a woman has to make about
whether, how and when to become a mother in the state of Illinois.

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