Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker (D) on Wednesday signed into law a landmark bill to protect reproductive rights as states across the country pass increasingly restrictive anti-abortion legislation.
The Reproductive Health Act rules that it is a “fundamental right” for individuals “to make autonomous decisions about one’s own reproductive health.” The law explicitly restricts “the ability of the State to deny, interfere with, or discriminate against these fundamental rights.” It passed in the state Senate two weeks ago and will take effect immediately.
The law also removes decades-old legislation requirements, including waiting periods, spouse consent, criminal charges for doctors who perform abortions, and other restrictions — though the criminal charges were blocked by the courts, even before their repeal.
Pritzker has been a vocal proponent of the act and his signing was expected.
“In a time when too many states across the nation are taking a step backward, Illinois is taking a giant step forward for women’s health,” Pritzker said in a statement.
Recent months have seen a slew of harsh anti-abortion state legislation passing around the country, and growing fears that Roe v. Wade — the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling which guarantees a person’s constitutional right to a safe and legal abortion — may be overturned. Pro-choice lawmakers and advocacy groups have rallied against these efforts, pushing for abortion rights legislation and pursuing court challenges.
“While all around us opponents are using misinformation and misogyny to justify attacks on bodily autonomy, I’m proud that here in Illinois, we’ve declared unequivocally that we trust patients and doctors to make these decisions safely and privately,” said state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D), House sponsor of the Act.
Last month, Missouri joined several other states in passing a so-called “fetal heartbeat” law, which banned abortions after about six weeks into pregnancy. Similarly restrictive laws have passed in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio — though all currently face legal challenges from Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and other pro-choice groups.
After signing the bill, Pritzker emphasized his lifelong support for a woman’s right to choose.
“When I became Governor, I promised that Illinois would become a national leader in protecting reproductive rights,” he said. “And with the signing of the Reproductive Health Act, I’m keeping that promise.”
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