It is an axiom that Illinois politics and politicians are dirty, corrupt, factious and belligerent. Indicted governors, crooked mayors, a budget so broke even MacGyver couldn’t salvage it into anything helpful — to study IL politics is to long for a return to blissful ignorance. Not even Obama in all his splendor can cover over this multitude of sins and sinners.
And yet, in the face of the worst economic turn-down since at least the 30s, in the face of an $11.5 billion IL budget deficit, despite last year’s absurd budget fiasco of earmarks and in-fighting and childish squabbling, the Illinois General Assembly is considering passing a fiscally, legally, morally irresponsible bill concerning abortion.
Right now the Illinois General Assembly is considering passing HB 2354, entitled the Reproductive Health and Access Act. Illinois already has fewer abortion restrictions than most states. As the bright blue bedrock in the red Midwest, IL stands in stark contrast to its neighbors, lacking laws pertaining to informed consent, waiting periods, parental notification [and so forth] that most other states have deemed necessary. Americans United for Life believes that only nine states have worse records than IL for defending life.
It appears the IL General Legislature is shooting for dead last.
At this moment, I’m not here to argue Roe v. Wade or ‘right to privacy’ or when life begins. If you’re even vaguely pro-life, you are already opposed to this bill.
I’m here to argue that even if you’re pro-choice you should be against this bill. Rather, if you’re pro-choice because in your mind this is what is best for women and society you should be against this bill. If you’re an ideologue [and make no mistake, they exist on both sides], then you want to ‘win’ at any cost and will furiously support this bill regardless of the negative consequences it will surely have.
This is quite simply bad legislation, for many reasons and by nearly any standard, so I’ll just discuss two particularly egregious clauses.
The abortion debate is often framed purely as a health issue for women, a necessary option to maintain her emotional and physical well-being.
Section 25A states, “A qualified medical professional is not liable for civil damages or subject to criminal penalty relating to a pregnancy termination performed in good faith.” Thus abortion doctors — or rather, “a person licensed to practice medicine in all of its branches,” which may or may not include nurses, technicians, etc — will enjoy a greater legal freedom from liability than virtually any other medical professional.
Since an abortion doctor’s vulnerability to litigation depends on the unclear and undefined concept of ‘good faith,’ I imagine it will become nearly impossible to sue for a botched abortion. This immunity from the law, above and beyond that afforded to other procedures, is remarkably flagrant. In addition, it seems as though it’s putting the health of the woman last rather than first. Is this the ’safe, legal, and rare’ we’ve been promised was the healthiest ‘compromise’ for this issue?
[I suspect this provision was included to spur more young doctors into this field. The continuing advancements in ultrasound technology and embryology research have resulted in an increasing reluctance of young medical professionals to embark on this career].
Section 35 deals with patient access and is a bit more difficult to parse down for summary, but basically individuals who object to participating in abortion may do so only if they fulfill four separate criteria. The criteria essentially amount to the state mandating that if you personally do not want to participate in abortion, you must help the woman find someone else who will. Thus the right for an educated and qualified medical professional not to support what she views as murder only stretches far enough for her to refuse personal participation while decreeing she must at least be involved in the chain of referral and concurrence.
I find these sorts of laws incredibly disrespectful. Why a woman’s dubious right to an invasive and highly contested medical procedure should trump the personal convictions [and Hippocratic oath] of every medical professional she meets is beyond absurd. Is there any other medical procedure in which the doctor is required to figure out for you how to obtain an operation he himself does not feel comfortable performing?
There is a systematic refusal from pro-choice quarters to acknowledge the slightest legitimacy of the pro-lifer’s claim of life in the womb. But 72% of Americans believe that abortion should be illegal from the second trimester on and 86% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in the third trimester. Presumably, they believe this is a life and deserves to be protected. Laws like HB 2354 prefer to strike any confusion from the record by steamrolling over the majority opinion and demanding that this woman get her abortion.
There is also a clause mandating ‘prior written notice’ to patients and employers. I’m not sure what that would mean practically applied [how prior, how public, do you have to wear a button next to your nametag that says 'I refuse to choose?'], and unfortunately no one in my representative’s office seems to know either — though he is a co-sponsor of the bill. In fact both times I called his office the person with whom I spoke told me if I wanted to ask specific questions about the bill I should talk to the person who originally sponsored it, indicating that co-sponsorship in the IL Senate means even less than it does in the UN.
[Still waiting for that call back, Rep. Miller.]
This is far-reaching and overbearing legislation at its finest. Because Section 20 promises “financial assistance for reproductive healthcare at least to the same extent as other comparable services,” the ILGA is also adding an unnecessary and unpopular burden to our already fiscally drowning state.
There are two motives driving the supporters of this bill. First, Planned Parenthood stands to gain a great deal of revenue and their IL lobbying arm is particularly strong, even by PP standards. It is no secret they engineered this legislation.
The second motive is ideological. Abortion is fought at the extremes. Activists tend to be strong advocates of either an all-or-nothing approach. Every incremental decision is greeted as either a massive victory or a heartbeaking defeat. The past eight years held a great deal of frustration for the pro-choice side, and now the time is finally ripe for vicious and bloody payback. This legislation, however, and its federal counterpart, the Freedom of Choice Act, do not merely recoup the ground lost during the Bush years. They go about as far as they can go.
This is unfettered abortion on demand, your tax monies footing the bill and your qualms and scruples ignored, denied, and forgotten. No restrictions, no limits, no room for doubt.
This legislation is for the extreme pro-choicers, the very small minority who support radically unconstrained abortion. It is not an accurate representation of what people want. It does not even pretend to be. It is a bitter and resentful retort to the last eight years.
This impulse may be understandable but it is also foolish. HB 2354 is terrible legislation, and mandates cannot last forever. There is not even a shadow of the compromise and bipartisanship the blue party’s standard-bearer has promised us so many times.
Is this the bold new era of fiscal restraint and mutual respect that our current political and economic climate demands?
No. This is the same old story of interest group politics and ideological hubris at the expense — in every sense — of all others.