Could you imagine a law forcing a vegetarian store clerk to tell customers about the benefits of eating meat and then to refer them to Burger King? A new Illinois law does worse than this—it forces pro-life doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and even the state’s 51 pregnancy care centers to become abortion advocates and escorts to abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood for the killing of innocent human life. Far from leaving abortion to the privacy of a woman and her doctor as pro-abortion politicians would have us believe, the new Illinois law tells pro-life health care personnel what to say and do.
Late last week, Illinois’ Republican governor Bruce Rauner signed the draconian and anti-religious freedom bill, SB 1564, despite not receiving a single Republican vote. The law forces pro-life doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and even pregnancy care centers, who object to abortion, to tell their patients about the alleged “benefits” of abortion and abortifacient drugs, against all evidence to the contrary, and then to refer or transfer those patients to an abortionist, or provide written information about where they can obtain an abortion or abortion inducing drugs or devices. Victims of illegal pro-abortion hospital policies like Illinois nurse Sandra Mendoza, who was forced out of her long-time job in June 2016 as a pediatric nurse for refusing to participate in abortion, will also no longer be able to sue under the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act.
Anti-religious freedom initiatives like Illinois’ pro-abortion law are spreading in liberal states around the country, emboldened by the Health and Human Services’ (HHS) refusal to enforce the federal conscience law, known as the Weldon Amendment, to stop California and New York from forcing even churches to cover abortion. Illinois’ new abortion promotion and referral law directly violates the federal conscience law (the Weldon Amendment), which prohibits any state that receives federal funding from conducting “discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” This harmful, anti-life discrimination must not stand!
Thankfully, there is meaningful legislation waiting for a vote in the Senate, and has already passed the House, which would provide pro-life health care providers relief from the new Illinois law: the Conscience Protection Act (S. 2927, “CPA”), introduced by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK). CPA would codify the Weldon Amendment and provide a critical private right of action so that health care providers and organizations facing discrimination in any state for refusing to participate in abortion can sue in court to protect their conscience rights. In light of HHS’ refusal to enforce the law in California and now Illinois, the Senate should follow the House’s example and pass CPA. The pro-life doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and pregnancy centers of Illinois deserve to have their rights protected.