Politics & Government

Illinois Senate passes Reproductive Health Act amid ongoing abortion debate

The state Senate on Friday night in a 34 to 20 vote passed the Reproductive Health Act, making way for the governor to ensure abortion remains available in the state.

This follows the House passage which took place on Tuesday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he intends to sign the bill.

“As a lifelong advocate of a woman’s right to choose, I applaud the House for passing the Reproductive Healthcare Act and urge the Senate to take swift action on this critical piece of legislation,” Pritzker said. “With reproductive health care under attack across the country, we must do everything in our power to protect women’s rights in Illinois.”

State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, was among those to vote “no” on the bill, which he called the most radical pro-abortion rights bill in the nation.

“It gets rid of a lot of the meaningful limits … my reading of it, it allows for gender selection of abortions, I think it will make Illinois of the states that has one of the most radical abortion laws,” Schimpf said.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said abortions after a baby is viable would only take place after if a doctor judges the abortion is necessary to protect the health of the mother.

“We’re trying to protect a woman’s fundamental rights,” said Bush, the bill’s sponsor in the state senate. “I believe there is a war against women’s rights going on right now, this needs to be passed now to be sure we in Illinois continue to protect those rights.”

State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, lives in the same county as Granite City’s Hope Clinic, the only clinic south of Springfield that provides both medical and surgical abortion in Illinois.

Stuart said the legislation is about protecting women’s health and reproductive freedom and ensures, women have access to every level of health care they need.

“That includes the full spectrum of care, pap smears, breast exams, prenatal care, birth control every level of care, and allowing women to make decisions about medical care that’s appropriate for them,” Stuart said.

Illinois’ passage of the Reproductive Health Act comes at a time abortion rights have been narrowed in several states. Missouri was on the verge of losing its only clinic at the end of the week, but a court-order kept the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis open, for now.

“When women don’t have access because their state feels (women) are second tier citizens who cant make their own decisions obviously they have to find somewhere to go for safe legal medical procedures,” Stuart said. “I think Missouri should feel ashamed they have treated women as second class citizens. That’s the real issue there.”

Saturday morning, Hope Clinic’s Executive Director Dr. Erin King lauded the vote by the state Senate.

“We are relieved that these medically-unnecessary restrictions on abortion care and criminal penalties are no longer hanging over our state, waiting to drop if anti-abortion politicians get their way,” King said. “Illinois trusts patients to make their own reproductive decisions without needless government interference. Those of us providing abortion care in Illinois will take a moment to celebrate this win for our patients but will continue bracing ourselves to provide care and a safe haven for our patients in the face of these attacks on reproductive health.”

How metro-east legislators voted

State Sen. Christopher Belt, D-Cahokia: Yes

State Sen. Rachelle Aud Crowe, D-Glen Carbon: Present

State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville: No

State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo: No

Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.