The Illinois House passed SB 25, or the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHA) Tuesday, in the final week of the spring legislative session. The vote was 64 to 50.
The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Kelly Cassidy from Chicago, said on the floor that the bill solidifies a woman’s right to “self determination” in making their own health care decisions. Cassidy called laws around the country banning or severely limiting abortion “a war on women.” The representative declared the same would not happen in Illinois, saying, “not on my watch”.
Rep. Avery Bourne from downstate Illinois led the Republicans’ debate against the bill’s passage. Bourne said the bill’s language was unclear on issues like the definition of when “fundamental rights” start. Cassidy responded that the RHA bill codifies current state law that does not grant independent rights to eggs, embryos and fetuses.
Bourne said the language in the bill allows for too broad an interpretation for cases where abortion care is available when a fetus might survive outside the womb. The representative said the current definition of fetal viability is “reasonable likelihood of sustained survival outside the womb with or without artificial support.” Bourne said the language in the bill expands viability to mean “without the application medical measures.”
The bill allows abortion care past fetal viability only if the abortion is necessary “to protect the life or the health of the patient.” Bourne pushed back on that language, saying “life and health” of the woman is open for interpretation.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Cassidy, responded that “health care providers need to provide health care based on their medical judgement and training and consistent with the accepted standards of clinical practice.”
“This bill is not about keeping abortion legal in Illinois,” Bourne said. “This is about a massive expansion that will impact viable babies. And that is wrong.”
Democratic Rep. Ann Williams from Chicago said the “rate of abortion decreases when woman have access to a full array of reproductive health care.” Williams said the Reproductive Health Act ensures women in Illinois the “affirmative right to access safe and legal abortion.”
In a statement, Gov. JB Pritzker said, “Today was a major step forward for every woman in this state and I look forward continuing my work as an ally by signing the Reproductive Healthcare Act into law.”
The Reproductive Health Act now heads to the State Senate for a vote.
Correction: A previous version of this story misattributed a quote by Rep. Avery Bourne.