Court Stops Illinois Law Forcing Christian Doctors and Pregnancy Centers to Promote Abortion

State   Steven Ertelt   Jul 20, 2017   |   4:24PM    Springfield, IL

A federal court issued an injunction Wednesday that halts enforcement of an Illinois law which forces pregnancy care centers and doctors to promote abortion regardless of their ethical or moral views. Alliance Defending Freedom and allied attorneys represent multiple pregnancy care centers, a pregnancy care center network, and a doctor and her medical practice in a lawsuit challenging the law.

ADF attorneys argue that the new law, which is actually an amendment to the existing Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act, violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution. In Wednesday’s order in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Rauner, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois agreed, writing, “It is clear that the amended act targets the free speech rights of people who have a specific viewpoint.”

“The government is out of line when it attempts to force Americans to communicate a message that is contrary to their most deeply held beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Elissa Graves. “In addition, the state shouldn’t be robbing women of the freedom to choose a pro-life doctor by mandating that pro-life physicians and entities make or arrange abortion referrals. The court was right to halt enforcement of this law while our lawsuit proceeds.”

SB 1564 forces pregnancy care centers, medical facilities, and physicians who conscientiously object to involvement in abortions to adopt policies that provide women who ask for abortions with a list of providers “they reasonably believe may offer” them. Federal law prohibits the government from placing burdens on religious conscience without a compelling interest for doing so.

As the court’s order explains, “plaintiffs have demonstrated a better than negligible chance of succeeding in showing that the amended act discriminates based on their viewpoint by compelling them to tell their patients that abortion is a legal treatment option, which has benefits, and, at a minimum and upon request, to give their patients the identifying information of providers who will perform an abortion.”

“The government has no business forcing pro-life doctors and pregnancy care centers in Illinois to operate as referral agents for the abortion industry,” said ADF-allied attorney and co-counsel Noel Sterett with Mauck & Baker LLC. “A law that targets medical professionals because of their pro-life views and right of conscience is unconstitutional and unethical.”

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“This decision correctly interprets the Constitution to prohibit compelled speech mandating faith-based ministries to speak a message with which they are fundamentally opposed,” added National Institute of Family and Life Advocates President Thomas A. Glessner. “We applaud this ruling that stops the state of Illinois from forcing pro-life pregnancy medical clinics to become abortion referral agencies.”

Mauck & Baker attorney Whitman Briskey is also co-counsel in the case on behalf of the plaintiffs.