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Illinois Right to Life, Pro-Life Action League, Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising rally in opposition to Illinois Senate Bill 1909

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On Wednesday, April 26th, Illinois Right to Life (IRL) alongside Pro-Life Action League, Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), and other state, regional, and national pro-life groups hosted a rally in front of the Illinois State Capitol at 12PM CST to oppose the ‘Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act’, sponsored by Sen. Celina Villaneuva (D-12) and Rep. Terra Costa Howard (D-42).

Senate Bill 1909 empowers the Illinois Attorney General to take action against pro-life pregnancy resource centers through fines up to $50,000 for “deceptive practices” that dissuade a woman from receiving an abortion or delay receipt of care. The bill does not, however, provide adequate definition, clarification, or examples of what behaviors would be considered “deceptive” under the proposed law.

Opponents of the bill repeatedly attempted to seek clarification regarding the legal definition of “deceptive practices” during a recent House Health Care Availability and Accessibility Committee hearing on the bill. The Deputy Attorney General for Policy repeated verbatim the same scripted legal response: “we would evaluate each complaint on a case-by-case basis.”

Proponents of SB1909 claim that this bill was born from a recurrence of incidents involving manipulative practices by pregnancy resource centers. In response, the Thomas More Society filed a FOIA request on behalf of a client seeking insight into any formal complaints that have been made by the public over the past ten years. The request returned zero relevant complaints filed by the public against pregnancy centers, and no legal action has ever been taken. This suggests that SB1909 is effectively “a solution in search of a problem” – while the bill has been held up as a necessary step to solving a major issue, no documentation of the issue has been presented by proponents of the bill.

From the perspective of state pro-life advocates, this bill is a direct attack on the work of pro-life pregnancy resource centers and a violation of protected free speech. As the language in the bill explicitly exempts abortion providers from the law while leaving the definition of “deceptive practices” unanswered and open-ended, Illinois pro-life advocates see this legislation as a “gotcha” political attack from abortion proponents.

Speakers at Wednesday’s rally in Springfield included IRL Executive Director Mary Kate Zander, Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Eric Scheidler, PAAU Executive Director Terrisa Bukovinac, Coalition for Life Executive Director Brian Westbrook, Students for Life Upper Midwest Regional Coordinator Tom Usle, Waterleaf Women’s Center Executive Director Julie Garofalo, State Representative Dave Severin (R-116), and Rev. Kevin Mann, S.J.C. of St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in Springfield.

“Abortion advocates in the Illinois legislature have been making political attacks against pro-life pregnancy centers for more than a decade, and this bill is no exception,” said IRL Executive Director Mary Kate Zander. “This bill is written to eliminate the competition – that much is clear. As Illinois legislators continue to expand the abortion industry in our state, SB1909 promises that women will have only one option available to them: abortion.”

Illinois pro-life pregnancy resource centers have been under political attack by pro-choice democrats for many years. Illinois Senate Bill 1564, passed through both chambers in 2016 and signed by Governor Bruce Rauner, would have forced pregnancy resource centers to provide abortion referrals. Courts determined that such a requirement was considered compelled speech and ruled against it.

“Why are billionaire J.B. Pritzker and his cronies in the General Assembly trying to silence pregnancy care centers? Because the only choice they want economically disadvantaged Illinois women to have is abortion,” said Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Eric Scheidler. “Yet we know that more than half of all Illinois abortions are unwanted — not a free choice at all, but an act of desperation. If Illinois Democrats really believed in choice, they’d be subsidizing pregnancy care centers, not trying to shut them down.”

Pregnancy centers have historically provided critical services to vulnerable low-income women, including counseling, important medical screenings, and prenatal services – as well as connections to other local and state resources for women.

A recent study found that pregnancy centers are more likely than abortion providers to offer same-day appointments and free pregnancy testing.

Another study by The Charlotte Lozier Institute reported that pro-life pregnancy centers in the U.S. served nearly 2 million people in 2019; 8 in 10 of the nation’s 2,700 pro-life pregnancy centers offered free ultrasounds and 810 of those offered free STD testing.

“Pregnancy centers are one of the last lines of defense for the unborn children and their parents targeted by the Abortion Industrial Complex,” said PAAU Founder and Executive Director Terrisa Bukovinac. “A safe and sustainable future requires communities to adequately provide for those in crisis. Illinois lawmakers must reject legislation that threatens the life-affirming work of these institutions.”

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