Illinois politics: New abortion law targets crisis pregnancy centers

Craig Wall Image
Thursday, July 27, 2023
New Illinois law targets crisis pregnancy centers
Planned Parenthood supports the legislation, while anti-abortion rights activists say Gov. JB Pritzker is trying to prohibit free speech.

AURORA, Ill. (WLS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker was taking action Thursday to counter what he calls misinformation and deceptive practices used to discourage women from seeking abortions.

The new law targets crisis pregnancy centers.

Anti-abortion groups are already challenging the law in court.

Supporters of the law, including Planned Parenthood, say the crisis pregnancy centers are misleading women about alternative services available to them. But abortion opponents say it's a matter of free speech.

Outside the Waterleaf Crisis Pregnancy Center in Aurora, volunteers stand in the heat, right across from a Planned Parenthood clinic, hoping to dissuade women from seeking an abortion, and instead encourage them to consider alternatives.

"We can't force anyone to do anything, but we're here in love and compassion, to offer them hope and help," said Mary Ann Vincent, an anti-abortion volunteer.

But now new state law, just signed by Pritzker, makes it illegal for clinics to engage in deceptive practices or provide misinformation about reproductive rights available to women.

SEE ALSO: Rockford's only abortion clinic to expand services this fall to include surgical procedures

"This is reproductive coercion that traumatizes people who are seeking or even considering an abortion," said Alicia Hurtado, with the Chicago Abortion Fund.

"The goal of the centers is simple: They're trying to get people in their doors to stop them from having abortions," said Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action.

The law would allow the attorney general's office to file an injunction against a crisis pregnancy center or fine them up to $50,000 for each offense.

Anti-abortion groups have already filed a 55-page federal lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction, claiming the law violates people's right to free speech.

"This is one of the most extensive restrictions on free speech against pro-life speech of any state in the country. What they've done here in Illinois, is to declare pro-life speech to be misinformation," said Peter Breen, executive vice president of the Thomas More Society.

The attorney general said it's not about restricting speech.

"You're not free to lie to people, or to use deceptive practices," Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said.

Clinic supporters see the law as attempting to effectively shut down clinics and anti-abortion dissent.

The new law is effective immediately, but the legal challenge could block enforcement while the case winds through the courts. The attorney general expressed confidence it will be upheld.