Pregnancy Centers Sue Illinois Governor Over New Law Forcing Them to Promote Abortions

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Sep 30, 2016   |   5:39PM   |   Springfield, IL

Pro-life pregnancy centers in Illinois filed a lawsuit this week challenging a new state law that would force them to promote abortions.

In July, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the law, amending the state Health Care Right of Conscience Act to require medical professionals in all capacities to refer patients for abortions and counsel them on what the legislation calls the “benefits” of abortion. Those who do not comply could face penalties.

The Rockford Register-Star reports a group of pregnancy centers in northern Illinois filed the lawsuit challenging the law in federal court on Friday. In the 33-page lawsuit, the pro-life centers argue that the law infringes on their employees’ religious freedom and freedom of speech. They are asking a judge to block the law from going into effect on Jan. 1 while the lawsuit is considered.

“The government shouldn’t be putting messages in people’s mouths,” Noel Sterett, an attorney for the centers, told the news outlet. This amendment would “turn them into a referral service for local abortion clinics.”

“It’s quite easy to find that (abortion) information. Go ahead and Google it. We don’t have to violate others’ conscience in order to make that happen,” Sterett added.

Parties in the lawsuit include the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, representing pregnancy centers in Rockford, DeKalb, Crystal Lake, Johnsburg and Rock Falls, as well as the Tri-County Crisis Pregnancy Center, The Life Center Inc., Mosaic Pregnancy & Health Centers and Dr. Tina Gingrich of the Maryville Women’s Center, according to the report.

Alliance Defending Freedom also is involved in the lawsuit. The pro-life legal group said the new law conflicts with federal and state laws as well as the federal and state constitution.

“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,” ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot said right after the governor signed the law in August.

“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,” Theriot continued. “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.”

Jay Hobbs of Pregnancy Help News reports more about the Illinois law:

Originally put forward in the summer of 2015, the legislation would require pro-life medical providers, including 51 Illinois nonprofit pregnancy centers offering free services including ultrasound and STI testing, to take action the bill’s opponents say amounts to participating in an abortion.

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Particularly at 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.” …

Although the bill requires pro-life healthcare providers and organizations to participate in abortion, it does not include stipulations that healthcare professionals, institutions, or organizations counsel patients on alternatives to abortion such as parenting or placing for adoption.

Similar government-sponsored speech for pregnancy centers has been struck down as unconstitutional in Austin (TX), Baltimore and Montgomery County (MD) and New York City.

Pro-life pregnancy centers are in a similar battle in California. The state’s radical, pro-abortion law backed by NARAL took effect in December, forcing more than 150 pro-life non-profits to choose between advertising free and low-cost abortions through the state or facing heavy fines if they do not comply.

The California pregnancy centers are seeking relief through lawsuits, but none has come thus far. In December, two judges refused to temporarily block the pro-abortion law from taking effect, LifeNews reported.

In August, the Los Angeles Times reported city lawyers threatened to take legal action against the Pregnancy Counseling Center in Mission Hills after it refused to follow the pro-abortion law. City attorney Mike Feuer took initial steps to file a lawsuit against the pro-life center after it missed an Aug. 14 deadline to correct violations, according to the report.

The pro-life non-profit eventually submitted to the pro-abortion law. Failure to do so could have subjected the pregnancy center to huge penalties of $2,500 per day, the newspaper reported.