Illinois' Reproductive Health Act Could Roll Back State Abortion Restrictions

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While several states have worked toward limiting abortion access within their borders, Illinois is moving in the opposite direction. According to reports, the Illinois Reproductive Health Act could roll back state abortion restrictions, making it one of the most progressive bills in the country. The bill moved out of committee on Sunday night, according to ABC News, and faced debate on Monday.

"I applaud the legislators who voted yes tonight on the passage of the Reproductive Health Act," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement, per ABC News. "With the onslaught of attacks against reproductive rights happening all across the country, we must act to double down on protections here in Illinois. The time is now to ensure that we preserve access to safe, legal abortion in our state. We won't go backwards."

The bill, if passed, would remove state restrictions on abortions that take place later in pregnancy, and would also remove penalties for doctors who perform them, per ABC News. Specifically, the bill would repeal Illinois' Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, as well as the Illinois Abortion Act of 1975, per The Hill.

"RHA codifies our existing practices and, and this is critical, treats abortion care just like any other health care, because it is," state Rep. Kelly Cassidy said, per ABC News.

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The bill's proponents argued that it was important to protect a person's right to abortion access at a time when anti-choice politicians are working to limit the type of situations where it is allowed, according to The State-Journal Register.

"We are living in very dangerous times,” said Rep. Robyn Gabel, per the Register. “I think our rights are being taken away, or are being threatened to be taken away every day. A woman’s right to choose is one of them.”

Reflecting on when abortion was illegal across the country, she continued: “The thought of going back there is pretty terrifying. Women were dying just to try to control their own reproduction. It was very scary times.”

States like Alabama and Georgia have recently passed laws which would severely limit abortion access within their borders. Although neither laws have gone into place yet — and will almost certainly face lengthy legal battles — they have shown that the fight over abortion access continues, still.

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In Alabama, lawmakers passed a law making it illegal to perform an abortion in almost all cases, except in the interest of protecting the pregnant person's health, per NBC News. The law provided no exceptions for rape or incest.

Georgia, in turn, passed a law making it illegal to perform an abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected. Dubbed a "heartbeat bill," the law would ban abortions at about six weeks into gestation, before many people even realize that they are pregnant.

The Illinois abortion bill aims to proactively protect access to the procedure, which remains legal across the country. If passed, Illinois would join other states whose legislatures have taken similar action in recent months, including Massachusetts and New York. It wasn't clear on Monday whether or not the Illinois bill would continue to advance.