Don’t be fooled by the Supreme Court.
While the Supreme Court’s decision in June Medical Services was a temporary reprieve from the assault on reproductive rights, we should not be fooled that this foreshadows the future. Justice Roberts joined four other Justices on technical grounds only, not on the merits of the case. Roberts has stated that he is in favor of reversing Roe and ruled with the anti-choice side in the original Texas case that June Medical Service mirrors. Even more ominous is that both of Trump’s Court appointments, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, sided with the anti-choice side.
Don’t be fooled. What the Court did today was a “holding action only.” There are still several cases before the Court that seek to overturn Roe and challenge the right to birth control. The anti-choice extremists are emboldened by today’s decision and it is to our great peril if we think it portends anything other than a reprieve by the Court Trump promised would end Roe.
In Illinois, our work has become more important than ever.
There is a dangerous and misleading narrative circulating about reproductive rights in Illinois. This narrative claims Illinois is a safe haven for abortion rights, and our work is done. It is not! Far from it.
The truth is that reproductive rights are NOT secure, and we are just one election away from losing all of the ground we’ve gained recently:
- The passage of HB 40 and the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) required an enormous amount of sustained effort over many years, and finally passed by the slimmest of margins. HB 40 passed the Illinois House with a mere two votes to spare and the Senate with three. The RHA passed the House and the Senate with just four votes to spare. We have razor thin pro-choice margins in both chambers with no room for error.
- There are currently 27 anti-abortion bills pending in the Illinois General Assembly. If passed into law, these bills would, among other things, repeal HB 40 and the RHA, outlaw abortion, impose criminal penalties on physicians, and outlaw embryonic stem cell research to find cures and advanced treatments for diseases like diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and COVID-19. All of these bills are sponsored by Republicans. Losing pro-choice legislators could propel these bills to law.
- Numerous lawsuits have been filed to challenge HB 40 and the RHA to render both laws meaningless. The Illinois Supreme Court has already sided with anti-choice activists to put the health and lives of young women at risk. With two virulently anti-choice appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump is trying to strip women of the constitutional protection for abortion and birth control. We need the Illinois legislature to step up and protect women, no matter what the courts do.
- The reality is that while these laws are important, HB 40 and the RHA only repealed the most repugnant and misogynist laws in Illinois: the “trigger” law that would have made abortion illegal the day Roe is overturned, the law that prevented low income women from accessing abortion care under the state Medicaid program, the law that allowed private insurance companies to cover all pregnancy-related care except abortion, the law that precluded a married woman from getting an abortion without her husband’s written permission, and several restrictions on birth control and IVF treatments. Halleluiah! That we’re no longer living in the 1950s isn’t enough.
- This dangerous narrative goes on to falsely compare Illinois to New York, California, Connecticut, Oregon, and Washington. Unlike Illinois, these states offer broad protections to ensure reproductive freedom for the women living there. And these states never had the kind of draconian restrictions on abortion that Illinois had, so they never had to pass an RHA or an HB 40 or repeal a Parental Notice of Abortion (PNA) law. Illinois is so far behind the other real pro-choice states—we have never passed proactive legislation that would ensure meaningful access to reproductive healthcare in the areas of birth control, sexuality education, and protection from predatory “crisis pregnancy centers” and violence when women seek reproductive health care. These states have overwhelming pro-choice majorities in their state assemblies, not the razor thin margins like Illinois. These states also have pro-choice Republicans. Illinois no longer has a single pro-choice Republican in Springfield.
The U.S. Supreme Court is taking us back to the dangerous pre-Roe days when all 50 state legislatures could enact virtually any anti-abortion statute they chose. The sad reality is that for most low-income, rural, and young women, Roe has been in the rear-view mirror for decades because existing abortion restrictions across the country have made it almost impossible to access safe abortion care.
With the Supreme Court’s evisceration of Roe, combined with the impact of COVID-19, the November 3, 2020 election defies prediction. What is completely predictable, however, is that millions of women across the Midwest and Illinois will need abortion care after November 2020. Anti-choice activists, donors, elected officials, and candidates are working non-stop to ensure that reproductive healthcare is not accessible. A record number of anti-choice candidates are running for the Illinois House and Senate. Our job is clear—we must do everything possible to ensure that the Illinois General Assembly is solidly pro-choice so that every woman who needs care can get it.
These 47 years since Roe has taught us that complacency is a prescription for defeat—sadly, often after it is too late.