Abortion isn’t in danger of becoming illegal in Illinois. Governor J.B. Pritzker is known for his pro-abortion stance. He has gone so far as to sign legislation allowing for late-term abortions. He has also repealed legislation requiring minors to inform a parent or a legal guardian before having an abortion. Even so, the state’s pro-choice legislature isn’t satisfied. This is clearly evidenced by the introduction of two new controversial bills, HB 2463 and SB1909. These bills target crisis pregnancy centers with the stated aim of preventing the “concealment, suppression, or omission” of information.
- HB 2463 and SB1909 are clearly designed to force pregnancy centers to help women get an abortion. They ignore the fact that such compelled speech is unconstitutional and thus against the law.
- The bills also give Illinois’ Attorney General broad powers to investigate and harass pregnancy centers. The AG could launch an investigation even if no one has made a specific complaint about the center in question.
- The law allows anyone to sue a pregnancy center. This holds true even if he or she has never visited the premises or been personally affected by the center’s services.
What is HB 2463?
HB 2463 states that pregnancy centers offering limited services can’t deceive, make false promises, conceal information or omit information. It also states they cannot interfere if a woman wants an abortion. While this may sound reasonable on paper, the bill is very broad. It doesn’t define “false promises”, “concealed information” or “omitted information”. What’s more, the bar is low for anyone who wants to take legal action against the pregnancy center. Even a person who has never visited a pregnancy center or used its services can bring legal action against a pregnancy center. He or she only has to feel “aggrieved” by a perceived violation of the above Act. For example, a person can walk across the street from the center, decide its sign is “deceptive” because it doesn’t offer an abortion, and then take the center to court. If the plaintiff wins, he or she can recoup legal fees. There is no allowance in the bill for pregnancy centers to recover legal fees even if a court determines the plaintiff brought the lawsuit in bad faith.
HB 2463 also gives the state’s Attorney General broad powers to take legal action against pregnancy centers. In fact, the AG doesn’t even have to have evidence that the center has failed to comply with the new act. Rather, the attorney general can act if he or she decides a center “is about to engage in any practice declared to be unlawful by the Act”. A center can face fines of up to $50,000 per violation.
What is SB 1909?
SB 1909 is the state senate’s version of HB 2463. It is almost identical to the house bill but with some additional clarifications. SB 1909 states that the Attorney General can investigate a pregnancy center if he or she believes that doing so is in the “public interest.” As part of this investigation, the AG could request a court order that would impound all the center’s records during the course of the investigation. There is no deadline set for when the AG has to complete the investigation. Thus, the center would have to shut down.
SB1909 also states that pregnancy centers cannot use “unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive acts or practices” when inviting someone into a pregnancy center, advertising pregnancy-related services, or performing pregnancy-related services. What constitutes “unfair or deceptive” isn’t clarified. This makes it easy for anyone to file a lawsuit against a pregnancy center for failing to provide abortion referral services or offering pro-life information to someone considering an abortion.
What is the Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act?
HB 2463 and SB1909 create the Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act. Only one bill has to pass and be signed by the governor for the Act to become law. The Act does not create a state mandate under the State Mandate Act. However, it does amend the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Businesses Practice Act.
How Do These Bills Affect Pregnancy Care Centers?
The passage of either of these bills could force pregnancy centers throughout Illinois to shut down. Even a center operating in good faith could be harassed by any member of the public or Attorney General in bad faith. Pregnancy centers could be required to offer abortion referral services and use pro-abortion messaging. This goes against everything pregnancy centers stand for.
Unfortunately, women with limited financial resources will suffer the most from these new bills. Pregnancy centers are more likely to offer same-day appointments and free pregnancy testing than centers offering abortion services. What’s more, other centers often don’t offer the personal counseling services that pregnancy centers provide to help women consider all their options and make well-informed medical decisions.
SB1909 has been sent to the governor and has been signed into law. However, this doesn’t mean that Caring Network and other pregnancy centers in the state will immediately shut their doors. The Thomas More Society has successfully filed for an injunction, which means the provisions in the new bill can’t be implemented. The judge slammed the law as unconstitutional, stating that it’s a clear example of the government deciding to sanction some people’s speech while allowing others to voice their beliefs. If the case is successful, this would either render the bills invalid. Alternatively, it could compel the legislature to adopt new legislation that doesn’t allow for the easy harassment of pregnancy centers in the state.
In the meantime, Caring Network will operate as it has been for the last 40+ years. We will continue to offer free ultrasounds and medical-grade pregnancy tests. We will provide consultations and support to any woman who wants to explore all of her options. This includes not only abortion but also choosing life or forming an adoption plan. In fact, we plan on opening new clinics in the near future in order to offer pregnant women fast, free, effective medical help and assistance. If you or someone you know would benefit from our services, give us a call or drop in at your convenience.