Illinois House committee approves bill banning deceptive practices at crisis pregnancy centers

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Illinois is one step closer to fining crisis pregnancy centers that use deceptive practices to prevent pregnant people from having abortions.

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

Senate Bill 1909 would prohibit the centers from interfering with access to abortion and emergency contraception. 

The Illinois Attorney General’s office is also supporting the legislation in order to ban crisis pregnancy centers from deception in advertising, soliciting, and offering pregnancy-related services.

“They’re handed information that is blatantly false, intentional to dissuade,” said Rep. Terra Costa Howard (D-Lombard). “This is about protecting women who are consumers of health care.”

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

House Republicans and other opponents said this plan violates the First Amendment rights of pro-life organizations by calling their speech deceptive.

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.

“These organizations are driven by their religious faith to advocate that pregnant women not choose abortion and also to provide support and assistance to those pregnant women,” Breen said. “These aren’t business competitors in the market for abortions. They believe that the market for abortions shouldn’t exist at all.”

Nearly 3,870 people filed witness slips in support of the plan before Tuesday’s hearing. Meanwhile, 17,624 people filed in opposition to the legislation. Only 66 people filed witness slips for no position on the bill. 

“For years, our office has received concerning reports about crisis pregnancy centers engaging in fraudulent and misleading conduct,” said Ashley Hokenson, the Deputy Attorney General for policy. “These CPCs hold themselves out as reproductive service providers but do not in fact offer comprehensive reproductive care.”

Hokenson said the Attorney General’s office has received reports of crisis pregnancy centers using deception to physically divert pregnant patients from their appointments with abortion providers to mobile sites operated by the CPCs. Those patients have told Planned Parenthood staff and the Attorney General’s office that they were pressured to take pregnancy tests or give ultrasounds without staff disclosing that they are not abortion or health care providers.

“We don’t operate that way at our clinic,” said Serena Dye, the regional executive director for Hope Life Center. “I also understand because I’ve worked with several people in the pro-life movement that have a very strong conviction that they’re trying to save lives. And they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that happens. And so, I can’t say that it’s fully deception when they’re trying to save a life.”

Senate Bill 1909 passed out of the House Health Care Availability and Accessibility Committee on a partisan 5-3 vote. Rep. Bill Hauter (R-Morton) voted against the legislation after asking most of the questions for House Republicans on the committee Tuesday night.

Although, anyone could read Hauter’s legislative biography by clicking here to see that that he is active in pregnancy center ministries with his wife. In fact, Shelley Hauter is the director of the Living Alternatives Pregnancy Resource Center in Pekin. Most lawmakers abstain from votes if there is a conflict of interest.

The proposal now heads to the House floor for further consideration. If approved, the bill will head to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk for his signature of approval. 

The plan passed out of the Senate on a partisan 39-16 vote on March 31.

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April 25, 2023 at 10:24PM

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