In the wake of Sunday’s bombing
at a Wisconsin Planned Parenthood clinic, some women's rights advocates
in Illinois say it’s more important than ever to stop two bills in the
Illinois House that could chip away at women’s reproductive rights in the state.
A pending bill in the House’s Rules Committee, HB 4085, would require doctors to offer their patient an ultrasound exam of their unborn child prior to having an abortion.
It would also mandate that health facilities track whether or not women receive an ultrasound and report the findings to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Many clinics that offer abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, already perform ultrasounds before every abortion to see how far along the patient is.
The problem with the legislation, put forth by State Rep. Joseph Lyons (D-Chicago), is the public recording to the state of whether or not the women viewed the ultrasound, said Gaylon Alcaraz, executive director of the Chicago Abortion Fund.
“It’s an invasion of privacy,” she said.
Alcaraz said women who are going to clinics for an abortion have made their decision. She said they’ve gone through their emotions, taken off work and saved up their resources for the procedure.
“Then she comes to the place and [is] told she must look at (the ultrasound), and then she needs to sign some documents,” she said. “What sounds right about that? They want to shame women.”
Physicians are already required to provide ultrasounds to women seeking abortion services - if requested, said Sharonda Glover, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Foundation for Women.
“Women should retain their freedom to request and receive these services only when they see fit,” Glover said. “In our view, this bill seeks to do nothing more than insert politics between a woman and her doctor."
Additionally, Brigid Leahy, director of legislation at Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said the bill does not specify what type of ultrasound would have to be performed and whether or not insurance companies will cover the exam.
She said the bill is "way more complicated than the sponsor implied."
"We do not believe the government should come in and influence private, personal medical decisions," Leahy added. "It should be made between patients and their doctor."
Another bill pending in the Rules Committee, HB 4117, would require health facilities that perform 50 or more abortions per year to comply with the Ambulatory Surgical Treatment Centers, which would call on abortion clinics to remodel and undergo additional licensing in order to resemble a mini-hospital.
Some critics say the bill, lead by State Rep. Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine), will require clinics, which are already regulated, to pay for the expensive remodeling, such as widening hallways and adding more electrical outlets. They say this legislation is designed to shut down facilities and limit access to abortions.
“If you put regulations saying you have to get up to standards like a small hospital, do you know how much that’s going to cost?” Alcaraz said. “You’re going to put these facilities out of business, because they aren’t going to be able to pay for that.”
Those opposed to the legislation say many types of surgeries including cosmetic surgery are performed in physicians’ offices or clinics that are not Ambulatory Surgical Treatment Centers.
“No other surgical procedure in the state is regulated this way,” Glover said. “This is just part of a calculated national effort to wage war on women's health."
Leahy agrees. "In Illinois, various surgical procedures can be performed and are safely performed in clinics and doctors' offices all over the state," she said. "If we're going to be fair and concerned about safety of surgeries performed in clinics, we should look at all surgeries. We shouldn't single out abortions."
The two bills are a part a larger anti-women movement across the county, said Robert Nesvacil, president of the Wheeling Township Democrats.
Nesvacil called the Wisconsin fire bomb at Planned Parenthood a physical attack against women’s health and the House bills “legislative attacks.”
“Other bills like Illinois' HB 4085 and 4117 have also appeared in many other states in an unprecedented wave of anti-women legislation,” he said. "The conservatives co-sponsoring these legislative measures may think their conservative agenda is reasonable, but recent polls show wide majorities of Americans, in particular women, strongly disagree.”
Leahy also points to lack of understanding by state officials and legislators on how far reaching the bill's impact may be felt.
"In committee the Department of Public Health testified against the bill and said these regulations are medically unnecessary and will not increase inspections of health centers that provide abortions."
She said the Department of Public Health doesn't have additional funding for this bill and it doesn’t know how many facilities would fall under the law.
"They really don’t know the cost," Leahy said.
Alcaraz said some elected officials in
Illinois who are focused on restricting reproductive health should
instead be worried about the major issues in the state such as the $2.7 billion in Medicaid cuts.
“Those are the issues that the lawmakers need to be concern about - not what I do with my womb,” Alcaraz said.