Gov. Pritzker vows to protect abortion rights in Illinois

Gov. Pritzker vows to protect abortion rights in Illinois

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CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday that he’s “very concerned” about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to block a new Texas law banning most abortions in the state, and vowed Illinois would continue to welcome women from elsewhere who need reproductive health care.

“Shame on those Texas lawmakers for taking away, not just women’s rights, but women’s health,” Pritzker, a first-term Democrat, said at an unrelated news conference in Chicago. “Banning abortion does not keep women safe.”

A deeply divided high court allowed the Texas law to remain in force in the nation’s biggest abortion curb since the court legalized abortions nationwide almost half a century ago. The court voted 5-4 to deny an emergency appeal from abortion providers and others but also suggested that their order likely wasn’t the last word and that other challenges can be brought.

In recent years, Illinois has expanded abortion rights in anticipation of Supreme Court challenges.

In 2019, Pritzker signed sweeping legislation that established women’s access to the procedure as a “fundamental right” and required insurance coverage for abortion, contraception and related medical care.

The law voided decades-old abortion regulations that were on the books but hadn’t taken effect because of court orders, including restrictions on late-term abortions and criminal penalties for doctors who performed them. It was urged by activists and Democratic leaders who called it a crucial matter with a conservative shift on the Supreme Court and prohibitions on abortion in other states that could lead to overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide.

In 2017, Republican then-Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a law allowing state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions. It also removed language in Illinois law stating a desire to criminalize abortion if Roe v. Wade was overturned.

“I am very concerned and focused on making sure that here in Illinois we are a beacon of hope for women who need reproductive health, and we’re seeing that people in states like Missouri have had to come across the border in order to just protect their own rights to see a doctor for goodness sakes,” Pritzker said.

The number of out-of-state residents who sought abortions in Illinois has increased each year since 2014 when they amounted to 2,970 out of a total 38,472 abortions in the state, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. In 2019, the latest data available, there were roughly 7,500 women crossing state lines, making up about 16% of the roughly 46,500 abortions in Illinois that year.

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