It was a different era back in early March when I last wrote in favor of the Reproductive Health Act, a pair of legislative initiatives in Springfield aimed at enshrining and strengthening abortion rights in Illinois.
Abortion was a simmering issue then, in part because the addition of two conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court had put in doubt the future of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established abortion as a constitutional right in most cases. And in part because the administration of President Donald Trump had just moved to block federal funding of women’s health centers that “provide, promote, refer for or support abortion,” even if none of those funds went to abortion services.
Then came the ferocious onslaught of anti-abortion bills in other states that has brought the issue to a full national boil:
March 15: Kentucky’s governor signs a so-called heartbeat bill banning abortion after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, as early as six weeks after conception and before many women realize they are pregnant. The bill has no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
March 21: Mississippi’s governor signs a similar “heartbeat” bill.
March 25: Utah’s governor signs a bill banning abortion after 18 weeks’ gestation but allows exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
April 11: Ohio’s governor signs a “heartbeat” bill, again with no exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
May 7: Georgia’s governor signs another “heartbeat” bill that critics say is the most draconian in the nation because it theoretically exposes women who obtain abortions to the death penalty.
May 15: Alabama’s governor signs a bill banning the use of “any instrument, medicine, drug or any other substance or device (intended) to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant” at any point after conception, even in cases of rape and incest. It exempts women from punishment, but allows for prison terms of up to 99 years for abortion providers.
Long somnolent supporters of abortion rights all across America have accordingly awakened at last to the grave and growing threat to women’s bodily autonomy. Just this week has seen hundreds of abortion-rights rallies and demonstrations in cities coast to coast, including Chicago.
It’s now a new era.
The bills that comprise the Reproductive Health Act are just the sort of counterpunch that demonstrators and other concerned citizens are demanding. Yet despite the national uproar, the proposals are still languishing in committees with a little more than a week to go until the end of this legislative session. And Pritzker, who campaigned as a champion for choice, has stayed on the sidelines.
The proposals underscore women’s rights to make “autonomous decisions” about whether to remain pregnant. They repeal the Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995 that requires minors to inform a parent or legal guardian or get a waiver from a judge before having an abortion. They lift restrictions on late-term abortions and require private insurance plans to cover abortion services.
And, as chief House co-sponsor Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, emphasized to me in an interview Tuesday, the measures repeal dormant statutory provisions calling for criminal penalties against abortion doctors and allowing localities to effectively ban abortion clinics by imposing medically unnecessary requirements on them.
“Those laws were passed long ago and then blocked by the courts,” Cassidy said. “But they didn’t go away. They’re still on the books. An adverse federal court ruling could reinstate them immediately.”
In early March, opponents blasted the Reproductive Health Act as “extreme” for turning access to abortion into “a positive good in Illinois law.”
That was before the nation saw repeated examples of what extremism on abortion really looks like, and before we took the full measure of the harsh intentions of abortion’s most determined foes.
Access to abortion is a positive good, especially when contrasted with the alternative.
The General Assembly and Pritzker have the opportunity to say that loud and clear in the waning days of this legislative session, which ends May 31. This is their moment. They should seize it.
Columns,Feeds,Region: Chicago,City: Chicago,Opinion
via Opinion – Chicago Tribune http://bit.ly/1GuZMG0
May 21, 2019 at 03:36PM