Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday vowed the state would remain a “beacon of hope in an increasingly dark world” — a day after an explosive leak revealed the U.S. Supreme Court may be preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Abortion would be made illegal in 26 states, including neighboring Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, if the landmark case is overturned as suggested in a draft opinion reported by Politico late Monday.
Illinois in 2019 established in state law the right to reproductive health care, including abortion — a measure put in place just in case the landmark Supreme Court case was overturned.
And in December, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a measure that repealed the last state law in the books that restricted abortion rights — a law that stopped minors from having to give parental notification before having an abortion.
“Illinois is a beacon of hope in an increasingly dark world. Because we will fight like hell, not just for the women of Illinois, but for every person in our state and every person across the nation who believes not in limiting civil rights and human rights, but in expanding them,” Pritzker said at a news conference Tuesday morning surrounded by nearly 30 Democratic state representatives and senators, many with tears in their eyes.
The Democratic governor also voiced his anger at Republicans, warning that if the abortion rights case is overturned, the Supreme Court may target other rights, like marriage equality and civil rights for marginalized and minority communities.
“I’m so tired of the same old BS on the right. Don’t angrily shout about freedom and then engineer it away from more than half of Americans,” Pritzker said. “Stop pretending you’re patriots when you’re cheering the death of democracy.”
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, who sponsored the legislation that removed the state’s trigger provision in 2019, said the state’s Democrats must come up with other ways to protect women in states that may restrict abortion, including helping them get to Illinois or become Illinois residents.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 7,534 nonresidents received abortions in Illinois in 2019, compared with 5,529 in 2017 and 2,970 in 2014.
“There are also ways that we can make our state more welcoming to folks who are coming here for sanctuary. In theory, ‘Hey Alabama family, you’re a teacher. We can make it easier for you to transfer your license and come become an Illinoisan and we can provide protections for the various providers beyond just health care providers,’” Cassidy said. “There are things that we can ensure that there are resources available for patients who maybe used their last penny to get here from Texas.”
The Democratic governor, who has doled out his own money for his reelection campaign and to Chicago’s bid to host the 2024 Democratic National Convention, said he’s also prepared to contribute to tight races to help Democrats fighting for reproductive rights.
“I’ve been doing it my whole adult life. Of course,” Pritzker said. “I want to do everything that I can do. It is my voice though that I think makes the biggest difference.”
Pritzker said on CNN on Monday night that all statehouse and gubernatorial candidates should be asked about their position on abortion in light of the reported ruling. If the Supreme Court decision does come through, it could provide a needed jolt to get Democratic voters out to the polls for the midterm elections.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey, who is endorsed by key Illinois anti-abortion groups, has said he wants to reinstate the state’s parent notification act and outlaw abortion in the state — which would be a difficult task with a Democratic supermajority in place.
Fellow GOP candidates Jesse Sullivan, Gary Rabine and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo have all said they are staunchly anti-abortion in media interviews and campaign statements. In a FOX-32 interview in February, primary candidate Richard Irvin said he was “pro-life” but said, “you know, there are always exceptions: rape, incest, life of the mother.”
Bailey, Sullivan and Rabine released statements in support of the Supreme Court draft opinion. Irvin’s campaign, whose running mate state Rep. Avery Bourne is an anti-abortion advocate, declined to comment.