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Pritzker calls for constitutional protection of abortion access

Pritzker calls for constitutional protection of abortion access

Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday called for lawmakers to take up a constitutional amendment to protect access to abortion.

National trends related to abortion “demand” that Illinois protect reproductive rights, the governor said during his inauguration speech in Springfield.

“The right to privacy and bodily autonomy demand that we establish a constitutional protection for reproductive rights in Illinois,” Pritzker said. “The extremists still want to take away a woman’s right to choose, and I don’t intend to let them.”

To amend the state’s constitution, Illinois law requires both chambers of the General Assembly to approve a joint resolution by a three-fifths vote. The amendment is then placed on the next general election ballot, where it must receive either a three-fifths majority of those voting on the question or a simple majority of all votes cast in the election.

Advocates praised the move as the next step toward protecting access to services in Illinois.

“We look forward to continuing this work and further securing reproductive rights and access for all who need essential healthcare, no matter their zip code, identity or income,” said Planned Parenthood Illinois Action CEO Jennifer Welch.

Mary Kate Zander, executive director for Illinois Right to Life, said an amendment would go against existing constitutional language that “no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law.”

“Abortion is inherently unconstitutional, as it does exactly this,” she said. “The governor’s refusal to acknowledge this fact is politically driven and has no basis in truth whatsoever.”

Pritzker’s request comes as lawmakers continue to debate further protections for abortion patients and healthcare workers who provide services.

The Senate held a subject matter hearing Monday morning on a proposal from Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago to strengthen access to abortion and provide legal protections for healthcare workers who provide such services. No vote was taken in committee, and the chamber did not take up the plan before it adjourned Monday evening.

The Illinois House approved its own version of the bill last week, and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said this weekend he will not accept a “watered-down” version.

Some stakeholders said the Senate’s bill does not go far enough to protect gender-affirming care. Language in the House’s proposal specifically extends legal protections to providers who perform gender-affirming care in Illinois from other states’ laws and outlines insurance coverage for that care.

“Personal PAC strongly prefers the language in (the House bill) that explicitly covers the care to be protected by the bill,” they said in a statement. “The worse outcome is that no bill is passed this week. That outcome is unacceptable because it leaves providers and patients unprotected and our fundamental rights at risk.”

During his speech, the governor also highlighted steps taken in recent years to increase access to abortion in Illinois, including codifying existing state law to protect a woman’s right to seek the procedure and the repeal of parental notification for minors seeking abortion services.

Along with reproductive healthcare, Pritzker spoke of several other healthcare proposals passed during his first term, including nursing home rate reforms and the overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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