Doctors and Pregnancy Centers Sue to Stop Illinois Law Forcing Them to Promote Abortions

State   Steven Ertelt   Aug 5, 2016   |   12:25PM    Springfield, IL

A doctor and two pregnancy centers located in Illinois have filed suit to stop a new law the governor signed that forces doctors, nurses, hospitals and pregnancy centers to promote abortions.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 1564 into law, which Democrats pushed through on a strictly partly line vote and put on his desk May 31.

The bill enacts changes to Illinois’ Health Care Right of Conscience Act, once considered the gold standard of state-level First Amendment protective laws. Effective Jan. 1, 2017, the law requires medical professionals in all capacities to go against deeply held religious conscience by referring patients for abortions and counseling patients on what the legislation calls the “benefits” of abortion.

But, today, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing an Illinois doctor and two pregnancy care centers filed suit in state court against Governor Rauner. Their lawsuit contends the law unconstitutionally forces doctors and medical facilities to promote abortion regardless of their ethical or moral views on the practice.

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ADF sent a letter to Rauner in May on behalf of numerous pro-life physicians, pregnancy care centers, and pregnancy care center network organizations advising him that the bill, SB 1564, would violate federal law and therefore place federal funding, including Medicaid reimbursements, in jeopardy. ADF also warned legislators about the problems with the bill last year. The lawsuit claims the new law, which is actually an amendment to the existing Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act, violates state law and the state constitution.

“No state should attempt to rob women of the right to choose a pro-life doctor by forcing pro-life physicians and entities to make or arrange abortion referrals. What’s even worse is that Illinois did this by amending a law designed specifically to protect freedom of conscience,” said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “The governor should have vetoed this bill for many reasons, including its incompatibility with Illinois law and the state constitution, which specifically protects freedom of conscience and free speech.”

The new law forces 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. Illinois law prohibits government from placing burdens on religious conscience without a compelling interest for doing so. Additionally, the Illinois Constitution protects “liberty of conscience,” saying that “no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege or capacity, on account of his religious opinions.” It also protects free speech, which includes the right not to be compelled by government to speak a message contrary to one’s own conscience.

“Pro-life health care professionals shouldn’t be forced to hand out lists describing how to contact abortionists, yet that’s what this law mandates that they do,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “If this profane amendment to Illinois’ conscience protection law remains on the books, doctors and medical staff committed to saving all lives will be forced to promote the killing of some children, women will lose access to doctors who unconditionally value human life, and pregnancy resource centers that offer free help and hope to pregnant women will be forced to refer to abortionists. This is the kind of government coercion that the state constitution, the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the very law that was amended were all designed to prevent.”

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