Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is asking for a special session of the state legislature to address Friday’s Supreme Court ruling that overturns Roe v. Wade, saying right-wing elected officials who cheered the decision should “Get your iron boot off women’s necks.”
Illinois law allows for abortion to remain legal in the state, so it’s not yet known what legislation lawmakers may address.
But in an interview with WBEZ Friday, the first-term Democratic governor who’s seeking reelection shed some clues as to how he hopes the Democratic-led legislature could further strengthen reproductive rights in Illinois.
That includes giving nurse practitioners authority to perform abortions, insulating out-of-state patients from prosecution or lawsuits within their home states that outlaw abortions or sending state dollars to providers to help accommodate tens of thousands more women from out of state coming here for abortions.
“I think broadly, we need to expand and assist in expanding the number of health care providers who can help uphold reproductive rights, perform abortions and other procedures,” the first-term Democratic governor told WBEZ.
“We have over 90 clinics across the state, and…they are all busting at the seams with people from out of state,” Pritzker said. “We’re going to see a significant addition [of] people seeking to exercise their rights.”
Pritzker is among numerous Illinois politicians issuing swift reactions to an opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court that ends constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years and allows individual states to ban the practice. Friday’s opinion by the court’s conservative majority is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states, according to the Associated Press.
“However, to women everywhere: abortion is still safe and legal in Illinois,” Pritzker’s office said in a statement, referring to a 2019 law that established abortion as a “fundamental right” for women in Illinois, safeguarding the procedure under state law.
Dubbed the Reproductive Health Act, the law established a “fundamental” right to abortion in Illinois, required health insurers to cover them, stripped husbands of a legal ability to block their wife’s abortions and safeguarded physicians from licensure sanctions or criminal penalties if they performed abortions, among other protections for abortion rights.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot echoed the sentiment that Illinois and Chicago will remain a place for people to have safe and legally protected abortions, but called the decision “unfathomable and devastating.”
“We do have, I think, a legitimate concern about what happens to the people who are coming here seeking services when they go back to their home state,” Lightfoot said at a news conference Friday. “Frankly I’d make the argument: don’t go back. Don’t go back. Stay here. Where you can live your life in freedom.”
Lightfoot floated the idea of looking to increase the amount of money the city could budget for organizations that provide transportation, housing and care to people undergoing an abortion. The city approved $500,000 to support people traveling to Illinois to receive an abortion after a draft of the Supreme Court’s decision was leaked earlier this year.
“As discouraging as today’s decision is, I, for one, am resolved. I, for one, am ready to fight,” Lightfoot said.
At the federal level, Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said the court’s decision will lead to the denial of critical health care and “criminal consequences for women and health care providers in states eager to embrace draconian restrictions.”
Durbin, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that body will “explore the grim reality of a post-Roe America” in a hearing next month.
“I will keep fighting to enshrine into law a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices. We cannot let our children inherit a nation that is less free and more dangerous than the one their parents grew up in,” Durbin wrote.
But many Illinois Republicans — including members of Congress who represent large swaths of rural and downstate Illinois — were celebrating Friday’s court decision.
“The Supreme Court was absolutely right to overturn previous, wrongly-decided abortion decisions,” U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, wrote in a statement. “Nothing in the Constitution confers the right to an abortion.”Davis is in a tough primary fight for reelection against U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, R-Oakland, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
The decision comes after decades of pressure from abortion opponents and was made possible due to the fact Trump appointed three Supreme Court justices to the court during his term.
In a video statement, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said, as a prosecutor, she would never use the office to prosecute providers or people seeking abortion. She also shared the story of her own abortion when she was 22 years old.
“A decision that I was able to make because the law of the land Roe versus Wade guaranteed me that right. My mother didn’t have that right when she drank turpentine to terminate a pregnancy before Roe was on the books,” Foxx said, adding that she’s “heartbroken and devastated” her daughter won’t have the same constitutional right to healthcare.
Foxx is just one of several politicians who said they’re processing the news personally.
Illinois U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, D-La Grange, called the decision “barbaric.” Earlier this year, Newman told the story of her own abortion after the draft decision was leaked.
“If I had not had access to safe, legal abortion when I was 19, I would not be in Congress today. I am heartbroken thinking about the young women in the same position I was 40 years ago who have just lost their freedom to make that same decision,” Newman wrote in a statement Friday.
Illinois has long been an oasis for people who are seeking abortions as neighboring states have restricted access, and is expected to be even more so given the court’s decision.
In Illinois, people can have an abortion up to the point of so-called “fetal viability” — when a fetus can survive outside the uterus — which typically occurs between 24 and 28 weeks, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
That means people must carry a fetus for the final 12-16 weeks of their pregnancies. A person’s doctor determines when viability is, and Illinois makes exceptions to the ban if an abortion is necessary to preserve a patient’s life or health.
Illinois recently struck down what many abortion-rights advocates saw as a restriction for people seeking the procedure: a requirement that doctors notify the parents or guardians of a minor seeking an abortion.