Illinois Gov May End Free Speech for Doctors

News: Government
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  June 9, 2016   

New bill forces pro-life doctors to provide abortion referrals

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill ( - One signature from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner would end free speech for pro-life doctors by forcing them to provide abortion referrals and counsel women on the so-called "benefits" of abortion.

Illinois legislature has placed Senate Bill 1564 on the Governor's desk; if signed, it will force doctors who refuse to provide abortion and contraception on demand to do one of three things:

  1. Refer the patient to another provider.

  2. Transfer the patient to another provider.

  3. Provide a list of "other health care providers who they reasonably believe may offer the health care service."

This new legislation amends the existing Illinois’ Health Care Right of Conscience Act, which stated,

[A]health care facility, or any physician or health care personnel working in the facility, may refuse to permit, perform, assist in, counsel about, suggest, recommend, refer for, or participate in health care services because of a conscience-based objection.

Until now, pregnancy-help organizations counseled women on such facts as the baby’s development and the physical and psychological dangers of abortion. The new law would require the same organizations to counsel such women on the so-called "benefits” of abortion.

The law would affect not only pro-life medical providers but would also include 51 Illinois nonprofit pregnancy centers offering free services including ultrasound and STI testing.

Emily Zender, executive director of Illinois Right to Life, commented,

We have over 100 pregnancy help centers for women in Illinois that are supported by private donations and run by people who selflessly give their time to help women in an unplanned pregnancy. This bill would destroy the pregnancy centers forcing them to violate their own mission and jeopardize women’s health.

Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), is threatening to sue the state if the bill is signed. Bowman remarked,

This Amendment takes away the rights of Illinois women to be treated by a pro-life doctor. ... By violating the pro-life principles of pro-life physicians and medical organizations, the Amendment would deprive Illinois women of their choice of a medical provider that does not refer or arrange for abortions in any way.

In a similar case, a federal court in 2014 upheld the free speech of New York City's pro-life pregnancy care centers by removing such restrictions as those attempting to be imposed by the state of Illinois.


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