Pritzker signs Reproductive Health Act
Illinois proudly defies national trend to strengthen women’s rights
By Ted Cox
CHICAGO — In a room devoted to the Union victory in the Civil War, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act into law Wednesday, proudly defying other states moving to limit abortion rights.
“At a time when too many states across the nation are taking a step backward,” Pritzker said, “Illinois is taking a giant step forward for women’s health.”
The signing ceremony took place in the Grand Army of the Republic Hall at the Chicago Cultural Center, with walls bearing lists of Civil War battles. Pritzker and lead sponsor state Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago both emphasized how this too was a pivotal battle on women’s rights.
Citing how Illinois just this week celebrated its centennial in ratifying the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, Pritzker said, “Today, Illinois is making history again.
“When I became governor,” he added, “I promised Illinois would become a national leader in protecting reproductive rights. And with the signing of the Reproductive Health Act, I’m keeping that promise.”
“There is a war against women, a war on bodily autonomy,” Cassidy said. She called out “hateful, untrue, and outright misogynist rhetoric which escalates daily and endangers women everywhere.”
Pritzker pointed to Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and Indiana, all of which have recently passed “near-complete bans on access to abortion,” he said, adding, “Abortion bans don’t ban abortion. They just endanger women — and none more than rural women, poor women, young women, and women of color. It’s wrong, and here in Illinois we reject it.”
The governor insisted the new law simply codifies existing case law as it stands in Illinois, but it also wipes away state regulations that were “lurking behind” court decisions and still on the books and cements state law against federal intrusion, thus guaranteeing abortion rights in the state.
“The Reproductive Health Act ensures that women’s rights in Illinois do not hinge on the fate of Roe v. Wade or the whims of an increasingly conservative Supreme Court in Washington,” Pritzker said. “In the 46 years since the Supreme Court decided Roe, there has never been a more important time to stand with women. Those who oppose women’s reproductive rights are emboldened. They are not just looking to curtail those rights, they are looking to eliminate them altogether.”
“Across the country, we are in the fight of our lives. We are in the fight for women’s lives,” said Jennifer Welch, president of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “Today, Illinois sends a very clear message — a woman, not politicians, should make decisions when it comes to her own pregnancy.”
Colleen Connell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, agreed, saying, “Our state government respects women and trusts them to make decisions about their health care — including birth control, abortion, and maternity care.”
Cassidy saluted Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake, lead sponsor in the Senate, as “my sister in badassary,” and they both praised the women of the House Freshman Caucus for giving the bill critical support.
“Elections matter,” Cassidy said, going on to applaud “the amazing women of the House Freshman Caucus. They ran on this fight, unapologetically pro-choice, and they changed the face of their (district) representation for the better. They put this bill on their backs and carried it to the finish line.”
“We ran when the president ran and told us it was OK to grab our body parts. We’re saying no more,” Bush said. “We will not go back to the pre-Roe v. Wade era in Illinois. Illinoisans can now rest assured that, regardless of what happens at the federal level, they’ll have access to comprehensive reproductive health care.
“The government shouldn’t be able to tell a woman what’s best for her body and her future.”
While insisting that all women ought to have the right to unfettered health care where they live, Pritzker said he welcomed women who might have to come to Illinois to get it.
“In Illinois, we know where we stand, and we’re going to be here for women if they have to be refugees from other states,” he said. “So let the word go forth today, from this place, that if you believe in standing up for women’s fundamental rights, Illinois is a beacon of hope in the heart of this nation. We trust women.”