Illinois House passes expanded abortion protections; bills heads to Senate

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois House has endorsed expanded abortion protections as a half-dozen other states strive to restrict the procedure.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy's Reproductive Health Act (RHA) was approved 64-50 Monday. It rescinded 45-year-old regulations on abortion which court injunctions have long blocked. It requires insurance coverage for abortions, contraception and related medical care.

Cassidy repeatedly maintained that the measure simply codifies existing practice. She says restrictions in other states will become tests for a U.S. Supreme Court with two recent appointees who oppose the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion legalizing abortion.

Republicans strenuously objected. Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Raymond), who is pregnant, led the debate for Republicans who opposed the bill. She called the plan a "broad expansion" of abortion and would make late-term abortions widely available despite the viability of a fetus outside the womb.

"This bill is not about keeping abortion in Illinois," she said. "This is about an expansion that will impact viable babies and that is wrong."

Many Democrats expressed concern that the more restrictive abortion bans recently passed several other states such as Alabama, Missouri, and Georgia could lead to the supreme court reversing Roe vs. Wade which legalized abortion in 1973.

“The wave sweep the country is dangerous and deliberate and women are living in fear, we deserve to control our bodies and our lives,” Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) said.

One of the more impassioned speeches came from Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford), a minister who said he and his wife have faced death threats for supporting the RHA.

“My ancestors had physical chains and laws that governed their bodies, we fought a civil war because we wanted to keep black bodies chained and enslaved and now you’re asking me, a black man to put policy chains on a woman’s body on reproductive health,” he said.

The Catholic Conference of Illinois called the passage of the RHA “a grave tragedy and a collective moral failing.”

The ACLU of Illinois said it responds to threats by recognizing reproductive health care as a fundamental right.

The bill moves to the Senate. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn its spring session on Friday.

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