Pro-life groups file suit against Gov. Rauner over abortion bill


Daily file photo by Paige Leskin

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to his supporters after he was elected governor of Illinois on Nov. 4, 2014. Rauner is being sued by anti-abortion pregnancy centers for a bill that requires doctors to give patients information about abortion services.

Sam Krevlin, Reporter

Anti-abortion pregnancy centers in Illinois have filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Bruce Rauner over a bill requiring doctors to give patients information about abortion services and other alternatives to carrying out pregnancies.

Senate Bill 1564, an amendment to the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act, has been a point of contention for both anti-abortion and pro-abortion groups in Illinois. Anti-abortion groups say Rauner has failed to meet his campaign promise to stay away from social issues.

The groups allege the bill, which Rauner signed into law in late July, violates fundamental rights including freedom of speech and religion.

Eric J. Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, said the bill infringes on both First Amendment rights and the right of conscience, which allows health-care providers to refuse to participate in giving care that would violate their moral or religious beliefs.

He said anti-abortion supporters were particularly disappointed in Rauner, who is a Republican, in light of their support for him over former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in the gubernatorial race. On the final vote in the General Assembly, every single Republican member voted against the bill.

“We knew Gov. Rauner was pro-choice and his family had contributed to Planned Parenthood,” Scheidler said. “We didn’t expect Gov. Rauner to go so far with this bill. It’s puzzling why he would want to do this because he knows that he was elected in part by the pro-life Illinoisans and many of us are deeply regretting supporting him.”

Rauner, so far, has had a moderate record on social issues. Rauner’s spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in an email Rauner “has never pushed a social agenda and remains committed to government, economic and education reforms that can turn around Illinois.”

However, Brigid Leahy, director of legislation at Planned Parenthood Illinois, said the bill isn’t just about abortion. The bill amends Illinois law, which she said “was the broadest in the country for what it was allowing providers to do,” including states that are usually more conservative.

The American Civil Liberties Union said critics of the bill are extreme and the bill was a compromise with Catholic organizations.

“For a patient to make an informed decision about their healthcare choices, they have to know what the choices are,” Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy at American Civil Liberties Union, said. “All this bill does is really restore and strike that balance between the interest of the patient and the legitimate health care conscious of religious interest of the health care provider.”

Through work with the Illinois State Medical Society, the Catholic Healthcare Association of Illinois and Catholic Conference of Illinois, his ACLU team was able to compromise on a neutral bill, Yohnka said.

“We knew where the opposition was coming from and we went to them and said here is our goal, help us get there,” Yohnka said. “That is how you legislate. That is how you govern. That is how you create good law.”

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