Judge blocks pro-abortion law in Illinois
Abortion | Preliminary injunction protects the free speech of pregnancy care centers
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 12/23/16, 03:22 pm
Pregnancy care centers in Illinois gained a small victory Tuesday when a judge issued a preliminary injunction against a law requiring healthcare providers to promote abortions.
In August, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a law amending the 1998 Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act to force healthcare providers to give information about abortion procedures and where to get them to any woman who asks.
Emily Troscinski, director of Illinois Right to Life, applauded the judge’s ruling.
“The judge asked some very important questions about why the state can’t disseminate information on obtaining abortions themselves,” Troscinski told me. “Americans should be able to live and work in accordance with their conscience.”
The law requires all healthcare facilities to adopt policies “designed to ensure that conscience-based objections do not cause impairment of a patients’ health and that explain how conscience-based objections will be addressed in a timely manner.”
“Healthcare” in the law includes sterilization and abortion.
Just days after Rauner signed the bill, Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit on behalf of a physician and two pregnancy care centers. It later filed a motion for the preliminary injunction. In October, the group filed a second suit on behalf of a physician, several pregnancy centers, and a pregnancy care network.
Alliance Defending Freedom argued the law runs contradictory to the state Right of Conscience Act and imposes “government-compelled speech.”
On Tuesday, Judge Eugene Doherty of the 17th Circuit Court in Winnebago County agreed.
“[It] is a classic example of compelled speech in violation of plaintiffs’ free speech rights,” the judge wrote. “The issue here is not a dispute over the merits of the message, but the government’s power to compel a citizen to speak it.”
The 19-page injunction will apply until a final decision next year. A hearing is set for Jan. 10.
Alliance Defending Freedom’s senior legal counsel Matt Bowman called the decision a win for the pro-life movement.
“Forcing pro-life doctors and pregnancy care centers in Illinois to operate as referral agents for the abortion industry in violation of their freedom of conscience is unconstitutional, illegal, and unethical,” Bowman said. “No state has the authority to compel health professionals, against their will and their sacred oath to ‘do no harm,’ to promote abortion.”
Tiffany Staman, director of the Pregnancy Care Center of Rockford, praised the ruling and said her organization, one of two plaintiffs in the case, trusted God with its future.
“The heart of our mission is to offer help and hope to those facing unplanned pregnancy, and we are confident that God will provide a way for us to continue to do just that without referring for abortions,” Staman said.
States’ attempts to coerce pregnancy care centers to post pro-abortion messages have had varying success.
In 2014, a pro-life Maryland pregnancy care center won its objection to a Montgomery County law that would have required it to post a sign saying no physician was on staff. Abortion centers were exempted from the rule.
But in October, pregnancy care centers in California lost an appeal in their fight against a similar law requiring them to promote abortion in written statements on their literature and websites.
Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.