Pritzker calls legislators back for special session on reproductive rights

Pritzker calls legislators back for special session on reproductive rights

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces he will call for a special legislative session to protect reproductive health rights after news of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade on Friday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces on Friday that he will call for a special legislative session to protect reproductive health rights after news of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday said he will call the General Assembly into special session in the coming weeks to “further enshrine” reproductive protections in light of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

“Together, the Democratic leadership in Illinois is committed to taking swift action to further enshrine our commitment to reproductive health care,” Pritzker said at a Chicago news conference. 

The governor said that he wants to expand the availability of health care professionals to handle an increase in women coming to Illinois to seek abortions and to boost funding for abortion providers to help prepare for that. Pritzker said they’re “considering a number of things.” 

Planned Parenthood earlier this week called for both of those measures in expectation of the Supreme Court decision. 

The Democratic governor also extolled a message he’s been spreading for months: “Illinois will be a safe haven for the exercise of your reproductive rights.” 

Gov. Pritzker speaks at a news conference called Friday within an hour of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The governor said he will call for a special session on reproductive health issues.

Gov. Pritzker speaks at a news conference called Friday within an hour of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The governor said he will call for a special session on reproductive health issues.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

“In Illinois, Roe v. Wade is still the law, and it will remain the law as long as we have a pro-choice Legislature and a pro-choice governor,” Pritzker said. “Here, we trust you to make your own decisions about your reproductive health. We will defend your right to bodily autonomy.”

Illinois in 2019 established in state law the right to reproductive health care, including abortions — a measure put in place in the event the landmark Supreme Court case was overturned. The groundwork to protect abortion in Illinois was set in 2017 when Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a measure that both allowed the public funding of abortions and ensured the procedure would remain legal.

And in December, Pritzker signed a measure that repealed the last state law on the books that restricted abortion rights — a law that stopped minors from being required to notify a parent or guardian before having an abortion. That repeal has been heavily criticized by the state’s Republicans, including in the GOP primary race for governor. 

“In Illinois, we will hold firm to these rights and continue to work with stakeholders to expand them,” Pritzker said in his statement announcing the special session.

Illinois and Minnesota will now be the only upper Midwestern states that will see no change in abortion access.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, the North Side Democrat who sponsored the legislation that Rauner signed, in May said the state legislators from her party must come up with other ways to protect women in states that may restrict abortion, including helping them get to Illinois or become Illinois residents.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that 7,534 nonresidents received abortions in Illinois in 2019, compared with 5,529 in 2017 and 2,970 in 2014.

State Rep. Kelly M. Cassidy speaks Friday at a news conference about a special legislative session on reproductive health issues.

State Rep. Kelly M. Cassidy speaks Friday at a news conference about a special legislative session on reproductive health issues.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Democratic Party of Illinois Chair U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly also said in a statement the state “will continue to serve as a haven for women across the Midwest and the country who need access to abortion.”

“Illinois Democrats will never relent in fighting back in the General Assembly, in the halls of Congress, or at the ballot box to protect the fundamental rights of all America,” Kelly said.

Not all are on board with the special session, including Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, who said Pritzker and Democrats “want to push Illinois to the utter extreme on abortion policy.” 

State Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods participates in a virtual news conference last year.

State Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods participates in a virtual news conference last year.

Blue Room Stream

“This is clearly not what mainstream Illinoisans want. While the Governor is calling a special session to act on these and potentially other extreme measures, Illinoisans are trying to deal with soaring gas prices and massive grocery bills that are leaving families hopeless,” McConchie said in a statement.

“Instead of dealing with these vital issues, Pritzker is embracing an extreme agenda that will make Illinois an outlier even amongst the most liberal states.”

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