Illinois Judge Suspends Abortion Notification Law

by Stephen Wynne  •  •  August 8, 2017   

Measure forces pregnancy centers to promote abortion

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ROCKFORD, Ill. ( - In a setback for mandatory abortion referral laws, a federal judge is halting implementation of an Illinois notification measure.

U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Kapala has temporarily suspended enforcement of SB1564, a measure that compels pro-life pregnancy care centers and doctors to publicize abortion to their clients. In his ruling, Kapala warned that SB1564, an amendment to the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act, may threaten religious liberty and free speech rights.

SB1564 went into effect January 1. In response, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates joined with 18 Illinois pregnancy care centers to challenge it in court.
Pro-life advocates argue SB1564 is unconstitutional, as federal law restrains the government's capacity to burden religious conscience. The district court's ruling prevents Illinois from implementing the law anywhere in the state until the case is resolved.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing the plaintiffs.

"The government is out of line when it attempts to force Americans to communicate a message that is contrary to their most deeply held beliefs," said ADF attorney Elissa Graves, reiterating her team's perspective. "In addition, the state shouldn't be robbing women of the freedom to choose a pro-life doctor by mandating that pro-life physicians and entities make or arrange abortion referrals. The court was right to halt enforcement of this law while our lawsuit proceeds."

Kapala agreed. In his order, he explained:

It is clear that the amended act targets the free speech rights of people who have a specific viewpoint. Thus, plaintiffs have demonstrated a better than negligible chance of succeeding in showing that the amended act discriminates based on their viewpoint by compelling them to tell their patients that abortion is a legal treatment option, which has benefits, and, at a minimum and upon request, to give their patients the identifying information of providers who will perform an abortion.

The injunction comes on the heels of similar suits against mandatory abortion referral laws in Hawaii and California.

Speaking on behalf of the plaintiffs, Thomas A. Glessner, president of National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, observed, "This decision correctly interprets the Constitution to prohibit compelled speech, mandating faith-based ministries to speak a message with which they are fundamentally opposed. ... We applaud this ruling that stops the state of Illinois from forcing pro-life pregnancy medical clinics to become abortion referral agencies."

The injunction comes on the heels of small steps forward in cases involving mandatory abortion referral laws elsewhere.

In Hawaii, ADF is spearheading the fight against SB501, a Planned Parenthood-backed law forcing "limited service" pregnancy centers to notify patients that Hawaii offers public programs providing "immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, including but not limited to, all FDA-approved methods of contraception and pregnancy-related services for eligible women." SB501 also requires pregnancy centers to notify women of a website offering information on these "family planning" services. And while the disclaimer does not explicitly mention abortion, Hawaii's Medicaid program lists it as one of its services.

In July, ADF petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review California's abortion notification law — the first of its kind in the nation and the template for the laws in Illinois and Hawaii.


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