The Illinois General Assembly has passed legislation that would require all health care providers to participate in providing abortions.
If signed by Governor Bruce Rauner, Illinois SB 1564, which amends the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, would remove conscience protections for physicians and health care providers who morally object to abortion.
The legislation would also force physicians and crisis pregnancy centers that refuse to perform abortions to explain the benefits of undergoing the abortion procedure. These facilities would be mandated to refer or transfer patients to other providers that perform abortions.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of individuals to live according to their convictions and religious beliefs. These protections apply to workplaces, too. Every person has an inalienable right to exercise their professional duties in accordance with their deeply held convictions.
James Madison, known by historians as the Father of the Constitution, believed the purpose of government is to protect the right of its citizens to act upon their convictions. In his famous essay Property, Madison wrote,
“Conscience is the most sacred of all property.”
The changes to the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act infringes the religious and conscience rights of health care providers by coercing them to disregard their deeply held moral convictions and participate in the process of providing abortions.
In a letter to Illinois legislators, Robert F. George, a natural law theorist and Princeton University professor of law, wrote,
“Requiring the objector to refer (or to transfer) the person to a different medical provider who will perform the abortion is radical and unacceptable because it implicates the objector in the obtaining of the disputed ‘medical service.’ It makes her or him a participant, that is, one who facilitates the procedure by assisting in its being obtained.”
Illinois SB 1564 also flouts federal law. The Church Amendments, enacted in the 1970s, prohibit state and local governments from discriminating against health care providers that refuse to perform or assist in providing abortions. If Illinois enacts the legislation, it risks losing its federal funding.
Elsewhere across the country, the conscience and religious rights of health care providers are increasingly under attack. FPIW recently brought attention to the candidate survey sent by Planned Parenthood to candidates seeking office in Washington state. The survey attacks the forty percent of Washington’s hospitals that are managed by Catholic health systems, claiming that these religiously-affiliated health providers “undermine patients’ rights” and “interfere with their ability to obtain a full range of health services.”
Additionally, a U.S. district court in Michigan recently dismissed a lawsuit against a Catholic nonprofit that operates 86 hospitals in 21 states. The ACLU, which filed the lawsuit, wanted to force the hospitals to change its policy that prohibits doctors from performing abortions.
Governor Bruce Rauner has until the end of July to veto the bill; otherwise, it becomes law without his signature.
Stand with FPIW as we seek to protect freedom of conscience for all people.