Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signs bill Forcing Pro-Lifers to Refer for Abortion

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. This story is based in part on posts from Pregnancy Help News, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and additional news accounts.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner

SB 1564 reached the desk of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on May 31 after the House voted, strictly along party lines, to support Senate Bill 1564. The vote was close in the House–61-54.

The bill decisively changes the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act, and would force the pro-life medical community to choose between violating state law and violating deeply held religious conscience.

SB 1564 compels every medical professional and pregnancy resource center to help a woman obtain an abortion by not only providing her contact information for abortion clinics but also describing the “benefits” of abortion. The bill passed along party lines with all Republicans opposing this egregious threat to religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

It is now law, thanks to the Republican governor’s signature which he affixed on Friday.

More specifically, according to Jay Hobbs of Pregnancy Help News, “[A]t issue is the bill’s requirement that every Illinois pro-life medical provider of any kind who chooses not to perform a procedure such as abortion or a prescription for birth control has one of three options: Either they must “refer the patient” to another provider, “transfer the patient” to another provider, or provide a list of “other health care providers who they reasonably believe may offer the health care service.”

That similar government-sponsored speech for pregnancy centers have been struck down as unconstitutional in Austin (TX), Baltimore and Montgomery County (MD) and New York City evidently had no impact on Gov. Rauner’s decision.

Here’s what Pregnancy Help News wrote before Rauner signed the bill into law:

Stripping pro-life medical providers of their freedom to hold to life-affirming beliefs and refuse to participate in abortion would have a far-reaching effect on Illinois women, Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said.

“This Amendment takes away the rights of Illinois women to be treated by a pro-life doctor, because it would force medical facilities and physicians who conscientiously object to performing abortions (and other procedures) to refer for, make arrangements for someone else to perform, or arrange referral information that lists willing providers, for abortions,” Bowman said. “By violating the pro-life principles of pro-life physicians and medical organizations, the Amendment would deprive Illinois women of their choice of a medical provider that does not refer for or arrange for abortions in any way.”

Bowman has helped spearhead the opposition to SB 1564 since 2015, drafting a letter to the state Senate, in which he stated ADF’s intention to oppose the law in court, if needed.

Co-signatories on the letter included pregnancy help organization affiliate organizations Heartbeat International and Care Net, as well as American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, six Illinois physicians—four of whom are OB/GYNs—and 11 Illinois pregnancy medical centers.