Illinois Establishes Abortion As A Fundamental Right In A Sweeping New Bill

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The fight to protect reproductive rights has taken center stage in American politics, but this week, one state moved to ensure such care remains accessible. Illinois' Reproductive Health Act will protect abortion access within its borders, and on Friday, the state's legislature voted to send the bill to the governor's desk. Once there, it's expected to be signed into law, Vox reports.

“Illinois is making history, because our state will now be the most progressive in the nation for reproductive healthcare," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement, per the Chicago Tribune. "In Illinois, we trust women to make the most personal and fundamental decisions of their lives — and now, that will be the law of the land, even as it’s under threat in other states."

The law, per the Tribune, dubs abortion access a "fundamental right," and repeals the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, as well as the Illinois' Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Although sections of the 1975 law were deemed unconstitutional, per the Tribune, the law has remained in existence, regardless. Among other things, the law required spousal consent before undergoing abortion procedures, and also dictated criminal procedures for doctors who performed illegal abortions, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

On Friday, the state's senate approved the measure after a 34-20 vote, per HuffPost. The vote fell along party lines, with Democrats voting to move the bill forward.

“We’re not going back,” state Sen. Melinda Bush, one of the bill's key sponsors, said, per the Tribune. “We’re not going back to coat hangers, we’re not going back to dying. We’re not going back. And I am proud to say Illinois is a beacon. For women’s rights, for human rights.”

“I believe, frankly, there’s a war against women’s rights going on," Bush added.

The Illinois bill comes as several states have moved to severely limit access to abortion. Georgia, for example, recently passed a bill making it illegal to perform abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detectable. Often referred to as a "heartbeat bill," the legislation will outlaw abortion at or around six weeks into gestation, before many people even realize that they are pregnant. It is slated to go into effect in 2020.

In turn, Alabama passed a law outlawing abortion in almost all cases. The only exceptions include situations wherein it is necessary to protect a pregnant person's health, according to NBC News. Notably, the law provides no exceptions for rape or incest. It is also scheduled to go into effect in 2020. Whether or not either the Alabama or Georgia abortion laws do ever become active will depend on how various legal challenges play out in coming months.

Illinois is not the first state to take proactive steps toward protection abortion access, either. Notably, both New York and Massachusetts recently reaffirmed their states' commitment to making sure that pregnant people can pursue abortion procedures as needed.

These initiatives draw a stark contrast to other parts of the United States, where bans and restrictions have only increased in frequency and severity. Although courts frequently pause or overturn such laws, one Illinois lawmaker said that legal challenges are not a catch-all solution.

“We can no longer rely on bad law protected by federal injunctions,” said Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, according to Vox.