ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois judge has suspended a state requirement that health care providers who oppose abortion must give information or referrals to patients seeking the procedure.
Winnebago County Judge Eugene Doherty granted an injunction Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by medical providers who oppose abortion, saying they "raised a fair question as to whether their right to be free from government compelled speech is violated." The ruling applies to northern Illinois clinics that brought the lawsuit, including Aid for Women, which has centers in Chicago, Cicero and Des Plaines. The injunction stands until the case is decided or there's a further court order. Doherty has said he anticipates the case would be appealed regardless of how he ruled.
The group of clinics filed the lawsuit against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Profession Regulation in August after a state law was amended in July to include the new requirements. The amended law was slated to take effect on Jan. 1.
The medical providers asked Doherty to prevent the state from penalizing doctors and medical staff who cite objection to abortion as the reason for not providing such information or referrals.
The group's attorney, Matt Bowman, commended the judge's ruling and called it a "victory for free speech and the freedom of conscience." Bowman has noted that the punishment for not providing information about abortion can result in a fine of $10,000 or revocation of a health care provider's medical license. He said such punishment "chills our speech."
Terry Horstman, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, said the state could not comment on pending litigation.
Officials with the Illinois attorney general have said the statute is triggered only when a patient asks for information and that the law was amended to ensure a patient's rights are not violated because of someone else's religious objections.
Under the amended law, patients who ask for and aren't provided with information or a pamphlet on abortion may file a complaint with the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. A complaint must be filed with the department before it can investigate a doctor or clinic.