Officials ask Congress to act as Illinois prepares for surge in patients seeking abortions
State officials and abortion providers on Wednesday called on Congress to pass the Women's Health Protection Act, a federal law that would enshrine a statutory right for doctors to provide abortions and for patients to receive them.
The law, which passed in the U.S. House in September, was rejected by the Senate Wednesday afternoon.
In a procedural vote, Democrats failed to muster the 60 votes needed to break a Republican filibuster and pass the measure. The bill was rejected in a nearly party-line 49-51 vote. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, was the only senator to break party lines when he voted with Republicans to reject the bill.
Gov. JB Pritzker and several state lawmakers met at a Fairview Heights Planned Parenthood facility.
"It’s long past time for this nation to codify Roe v. Wade into law," said Pritzker. "If it takes overhauling the filibuster, then overhaul the filibuster. If it requires countless hours of pleading and deliberation, then get to work. If it takes courage, find it."
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Illinois is uncommon among its neighbors for its policies protecting abortion rights. Every state that neighbors Illinois is either certain to ban abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned or likely to ban the procedure within a year, according to a January analysis from Pew Charitable Trusts.
Because of existing restrictions on reproductive health care in neighboring states, Illinois has already become a destination for some from neighboring states who are seeking abortion care. One in five abortions in Illinois in 2020 were provided to people from out of state, according to records from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Missouri residents make up about 68% of out-of-state patients receiving abortions in Illinois, according to IDPH. Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri has already started training more nurse practitioners.
Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of the PPSLR, said this is to prepare for an "impending surge of patients in the tens of thousands."
These moves are all ahead of an expected decision this summer in the ongoing U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
A leaked draft decision by Justice Samuel Alito which would overturn previous Supreme Court decisions protecting abortion rights was published by the news organization Politico earlier this month.
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Missouri, like 12 other states, passed a "trigger law" in 2019, which would ban abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe. v. Wade.
Rodriguez's organization operates the only licensed abortion clinic in Missouri. It opened a Fairview Heights center focused on providing logistical support to those seeking reproductive health care in January.
"We are running out of time," said Rodriguez.
The state of Illinois is also exploring ways it can support out-of-state patients.
"We are looking at whether or not we can provide state dollars for out-of-state people directly to help them," said Pritzker. "But indirectly, we absolutely already are doing that."
According to IDPH data, 343 people from Sangamon County received abortions in 2020, about 0.7% of all abortions in the state. The county has about 1.5% of the state's population, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Elsewhere in the state, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Tuesday that the city is creating a fund to help Chicagoans and those from out of state access abortion care. Just under half, 49.1%, of Illinois abortions in 2020 were provided to residents of Chicago and Cook County.
More:Protesters gather outside the federal courthouse in Springfield to support abortion access
Anti-abortion groups have criticized Lightfoot and Pritzker for their stances on abortions and for their attempts to position Illinois as a safe haven for abortion care.
"Every abortion brutally takes the life of a preborn child and, thanks to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, it is incredibly dangerous for women in the state of Illinois," said Amy Gehrke, executive director of Illinois Right to Life, in a Tuesday statement. "By welcoming women to Chicago for abortions Mayor Lightfoot is putting the women of our neighboring states at risk."
Among Illinois Republican voters, views on abortion vary. A plurality, 40%, of Republican voters think abortion should be legal, but only in cases of "rape, incest and when the woman's life is endangered," according to a recent poll by Emerson College and several news outlets. Only 18% think it should be illegal in all cases.
The rest of the 1,000 Republican voters polled said abortion should be legal in some capacity, with 15% saying it should be legal in all cases, 15% saying it should be legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy and 13% saying it should be legal up to six weeks.
The poll was conducted on May 6 through 8.
Contact Andrew Adams: email@example.com; 312-291-1417; twitter.com/drewjayadams.