Bolstering Illinois as a midwestern haven for patients seeking abortions, Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday signed legislation that would insulate providers and out-of-state patients from legal attacks for the procedures performed here.
The measure also requires health insurers to provide coverage, with no copays, for gender-affirming hormone medications, abortion-inducing drugs and medicine aimed to safeguard against HIV transmission before and after possible exposure.
Before signing the legislation Friday, Pritzker described it as “a monumental new law that further protects patients and providers who seek and deliver legal and safe reproductive health care in Illinois.”
“Here in Illinois, we know that reproductive care is health care,” the governor said. “A medical decision should be made between a patient and their health care provider. No one else. Every single person regardless of gender, sexuality, race and economic status has the right to privacy and bodily autonomy.
“And when people come to Illinois to exercise those rights, they will be welcomed and protected,” he said. “That’s what this historic bill stands for.”
The package passed this week during the final days of the Democratic-led General Assembly’s lame-duck session and, with its enactment, gives Pritzker yet another high-profile legislative trophy during the first week of his second term in office.
The governor grabbed national headlines by signing an assault weapons ban Tuesday that took shape after the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, where seven people were killed and dozens more injured by a rooftop gunman bearing an AR-15-style gun.
Abortion-rights advocates hailed enactment of the Patient and Provider Protection Act as a vital safeguard for the procedure as thousands of patients have flooded into Illinois after their home states imposed virtual bans on abortion following reversal of the longstanding Roe v. Wade opinion last year.
“In the ever-shifting post-Roe national landscape, Illinois is an oasis for reproductive care,” said Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action. “With this bill now in effect, Illinois is a leader in the fight for bodily autonomy and a haven to those seeking and providing essential health care.”
The issue has had a powerful electoral effect for Pritzker and Illinois Democrats, as a whole, since the U.S. Supreme Court drastically reset the nation’s half-century relationship with abortions.
Pritzker easily repelled a challenge from Republican hardline abortion opponent Darren Bailey, who compared abortions to the Holocaust. Also in November, Democrats maintained control of the state Supreme Court after two abortion-rights-favoring candidates, Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien, won open seats over Republican rivals opposed to abortions.
In his inaugural address Monday, Pritzker signaled a continuing interest in building on reproductive freedoms. He advocated a constitutional amendment enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution. The soonest that could happen would be the November 2024 ballot.
Dave McKinney covers Illinois politics and government for WBEZ.