Illinois Senate approves bill cracking down on pregnancy center deception

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Illinois could soon penalize crisis pregnancy centers that use deceptive practices to prevent pregnant people from having abortions.

State law gives people the fundamental right to make decisions about their own reproductive health care. Illinois statute also ensures patients receive timely access to information and medically-necessary care.

However, Senate Democrats say thousands of people in Illinois and across the country have become victims of pregnancy centers sharing false claims about abortion.

Sen. Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago) told her colleagues Friday that Senate Bill 1909 could prohibit pregnancy centers from interfering with access to abortion or emergency contraception.

“Crisis pregnancy centers will often look like a medical office and maybe even have staff or volunteers in white coats with name tags which can be bought online,” Villanueva said. “But often, the people providing the services are not licensed professionals.”

The six-page bill also states that employees of limited services pregnancy centers cannot induce someone to enter or access their facilities. Crisis pregnancy centers would also be banned from deception in advertising, soliciting, or offering pregnancy-related services.

“We’ve come to a point where we’ve lost civility that we don’t respect someone else’s opinion,” said Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy). “And this overreach just goes to the point that if you don’t believe the way the majority party believes in this state, you’re wrong and we’re going to go after you.”

This plan passed out of the Senate on a partisan 39-16 vote. Senate Bill 1909 now moves to the House for further consideration. 

If signed into law, the Attorney General’s office would have the ability to fine deceptive pregnancy centers. Still, Republicans said the state will likely see lawsuits against the legislation.

“We’re going to have the same entity making the rules, deciding what the fines are, and then collecting those into their own coffers,” said Sen. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro). “I don’t know any other circumstance that we do that in. I’m going to say shame on the Attorney General’s office for doing this. It’s deceptive.”

Planned Parenthood of Illinois celebrated the bill’s passage Friday afternoon. PPIL President and CEO Jennifer Welch said CPCs have systemically employed deception, fraud, and false pretense to get people in their doors with the goal of denying them abortion access.

“Thank you to State Senator Celina Villanueva for sponsoring this important legislation. We encourage the Illinois House to pass the bill,” Welch said. “If this is signed into law, individuals can file complaints and the Illinois Attorney General will be able to bring legal action against CPCs for their harmful and deceptive practices.”

Although, the conservative Thomas More Society is already preparing to file a lawsuit if the plan becomes law. Former Rep. Peter Breen is the Executive Vice President and head of litigation for the organization.

“This bill is presented as a ‘consumer protection’ measure, but its purpose is to protect abortion clinics from competition,” Breen stated. “The supporters of this bill object to pro-life organizations’ highly successful efforts to convince abortion clinic customers to choose life for their children instead of aborting them.” 

Breen argued that the bill is flagrantly unconstitutional. Yet, Attorney General Kwame Raoul is glad to see the plan move forward. 

“Patients report going to crisis pregnancy centers – sometimes even receiving exams and ultrasounds – thinking they were visiting a different clinic that offers the full range of reproductive care,” Raoul stated. “This is an extreme violation of trust and patient privacy that should not occur in our state.”

Senate Bill 1909 arrived in the House Friday afternoon. Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) will be the lead sponsor of the measure in that chamber.

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March 31, 2023 at 05:16PM

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