Protecting access to reproductive health care was among my earliest entries to activism. I’ve served as a clinic escort, and have worked with leaders at the local, state, and federal level to protect choice for decades. I sponsored the Reproductive Health Act and an active cosponsor of both House Bill 40 and the repeal of the Parental Notice of Abortion Act. Last summer, I was pleased to be asked by Speaker Welch to lead working group tasked with crafting legislation responding to issues raised for our state, patients, and providers in light of the fall of Roe v Wade with the release of the Dobbs decision. We accomplished a huge victory with the passage of HB4664 known as The Patient and Provider Protection Act. In this section, we will provide background on how we expect this decision to continue to impact us here in Illinois and updates as the working group prepares for another session.
What's the Update?
In January we passed The Patient & Provider Protection Act. The bill provides protections for lawful health care activity in Illinois from abusive litigation in other states. "Lawful health care" includes reproductive health and gender-affirming health care. The bill:
Protects information about lawful health care activity in Illinois from becoming subject to subpoenas issued from other states
Protects witnesses from being compelled to testify in criminal proceedings in another state in a charge related to lawful health care activity.
Prohibits state courts from applying another state's law in Illinois cases related to lawful health care activity and prohibits courts from enforcing foreign judgments issued in connection with litigation concerning lawful health care activity.
Provides the Governor's discretion in complying with an extradition order from another state stemming from a charge based on conduct that involves lawful health care activity.
Under the act, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and Physicians Assistants can provide scope-appropriate abortion care. It also allows birth centers to provide broad-spectrum reproductive health care in addition to their current offerings to pregnant people and new parents. The act takes major steps to expand access by guaranteeing that abortion medications, PEP/PrEP, and gender-affirming care be covered by insurers at no extra cost to consumers and requires local government employers to offer insurance plans that provide coverage for these treatments, as well as for birth control.
Among other provisions, the act also strengthens protections for families using assisted reproductive treatments like IVF or surrogacy. The act adds "assisted reproduction" to the definition of reproductive health care protected under this act and under the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) Governor Pritzker signed into law in 2019. The RHA guaranteed private insurance coverage for abortion services and reaffirmed Illinoisans right to essential reproductive care.
I chaired a working group with many amazing advocates and fellow legislators who worked tirelessly to see how we can further cement Illinois as a safe haven for those that are arriving from other states as well as those in Illinois who also lack access due to where they live. However, the reversal of Roe should be a reminder that the work of securing justice and equality for all is not finished, and may never be. People who wanted Roe to fall worked decades to see it reversed and are not stopping. I like to say there is an equal and opposite Kelly Cassidy in other states and at the federal level who wants to ensure we face obstacles protecting those seeking reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare as well as other human rights we all should be afforded. Our work is far from over. Just two days after the signing of the Patient and Provider Protection Act (PAPPA) a firebombing occurred at a Planned Parenthood in Peoria. Luckily no one was inside. To learn more click here. I was notified by the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois when it occurred and I was feeling a disconcerting combination of anger and grief-stricken. This was clearly a message. However, make no mistake we are not backing down. We will not go back! Our working group will reconvene in the coming weeks as we clearly have more work to do.
What is a Crisis Pregnancy Center?
Our working group is studying the prevalence of crisis pregnancy centers. Crisis pregnancy centers (called CPCs or fake clinics) are clinics or mobile vans that look like real health centers but have agendas to pressure or mislead people from getting an abortion. These clinics do not provide abortions or always give accurate facts about sexual health and a woman's pregnancy options. Often crisis pregnancy centers are not licensed medical facilities or staffed by licensed professionals and offer ultrasounds by unlicensed personnel. There are 90+ CPCs in Illinois. As of 2020, there are 2,500+ CPCs nationwide. CPCs outnumber abortion clinics nationwide by an average of more than 3 to 1. We are working on legislation based on what we have heard from practical support groups and providers to better address this issue. We are also notifying major search platforms like Google of this problem as many searches that come up for people who are looking for abortions are sent CPC sites which are places to avoid for people who need abortion services. Below is a map that my Chief of Staff, Torrence Gardner, put together to highlight how many abortion providers we have in relation to CPCs. The purple icons are the abortion providers and the red dots are the CPCs. Feel free to use this map as a way to find abortion services.
If you specifically live in Chicago and you or if you know someone who is seeking reproductive health care support and services, residents can visit chicago.gov/abortioncare for trusted resources and information about pregnancy options and how to find services. CDPH hosts a digital community directory as part of its OneChiFam initiative. Anyone can use this directory to search by zip code, category, or keyword.
Where is Abortion Legal in the U.S?
Below you will find a color-coded map to reflect the current status of abortion law in states across the country. This map will continue to be updated.
Abortion Law in Illinois
Click on the image below to see an At A Glance one-pager of abortion law in Illinois provided by the ACLU.