Gov. Pritzker, Illinois legislators call on Congress to protect women’s reproductive rights in wake of Texas abortion law
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois lawmakers came to Aurora Tuesday to urge Congress to pass new federal legislation to protect women’s access to reproductive health care in the wake of a new Texas law which prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks.
While the governor and Illinois U.S. Reps. Lauren Underwood, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Bill Foster spoke inside at the event at Planned Parenthood on East New York Street in Aurora, dozens of members with the Pro-Life Action League protested outside the facility.
“Nobody should be forced to cross state lines to see a doctor,” Pritzker said Tuesday about the new Texas law. “The latest extremist attacks on reproductive health prove we need a federal law to protect a woman’s right to control their own health care.”
Planned Parenthood Illinois CEO Jennifer Welch said two days after the bill passed in Texas, they had two patients from the state.
“We have had patients from Texas every day since then and we expect these numbers to significantly increase as these dangerous laws continue,” Welch said, adding that most women do not even know they are pregnant by the six-week mark.
She expressed concern that patients most impacted by the Texas measure are already facing barriers, including Black and Latinx women or people living in remote, rural or poor communities.
The lawmakers and Welch said they fear the Texas measure sets a legal precedent, creating a new path for other states to enact similar laws.
“We are proud to be a beacon of hope in the Midwest, while in states like Missouri women are forced to travel here in refuge for their reproductive rights,” Pritzker said.
The Texas law also allows private citizens to sue anyone involved with violating the new measure.
“It sets up a system of private individuals acting as bounty hunters, spying on other women and turning them in for profit,” Krishnamoorthi said.
The Women’s Health Protection Act would give equal access to abortions across the U.S. and lift restrictions including mandatory waiting periods, ultrasounds and two-trip requirements. The U.S. House is expected to vote on the bill when it reconvenes next week, Krishnamoorthi said.
Underwood, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, said access to safe abortions is a matter of basic health care.
Outside the facility, Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, said he worries an increase of out-of-state patients coming into Illinois will put pressure on the state and its taxpayers.
“We are not going to let Pritzker make Illinois the abortion capital of the country,” Scheidler said.
Aurora Planned Parenthood’s Health Center Manager Clementina Gomez said patients routinely travel to the center for abortions from Wisconsin or Indiana, which have mandatory waiting periods.
Before the new Texas law was enacted, a woman from Texas traveled to Aurora and said she did not have support from her partner or family to raise a child and drained her bank account to buy a round-trip ticket to Illinois, Gomez said.
“I’m afraid we are going to see more and more patients like her,” Gomez said. “Unfortunately there will be many who cannot travel to us at all, even if they wanted to.”