Christian pregnancy centers challenge law that requires them to promote abortion

(Reuters/Mike Segar)Information on pregnancy is seen in a waiting area inside of a new million,14,000-square foot Planned Parenthood health center in Long Island City, in the Queens borough of New York City September 1, 2015.

Christian crisis pregnancy centers in Chicago have filed a lawsuit to challenge a change in an Illinois law that now requires physicians and nurses to provide pregnant patients with information about all available options, including abortion.

The lawsuit, filed against state officials, including Gov. Bruce Rauner, contends that the changes to the law violate the constitutional free-speech rights of the pregnancy centers because they find giving advice for abortion to be morally wrong.

The law, which was originally intended to protect physicians opposed to performing abortions, was passed after the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion. The modifications to the law, which was said to be designed to protect patients who do not know about all their options, were signed into law by Rauner last year, according to The Chicago Tribune.

The modified law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, requires providers to offer a "standard of care," which includes informing patients of all their medical options such as abortion or contraception, even if the physician is opposed to it for moral or religious reasons.

"A pro-life physician cannot in good conscience do that," said Thomas Olp, an attorney for the Thomas More Society, a religious liberty law firm. He went on to explain that providing a referral to an abortion provider would be considered by pro-life physicians "material involvement in something that's inherently evil."

Olp further noted that the clinics involved in the lawsuit do not receive state or federal funding.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include 1st Way Pregnancy Support Services, Pregnancy Aid South Suburbs, and Dr. Ronald Schroeder, who works at various pregnancy centers.

The suit, which was filed in a federal court in Springfield earlier this year, has been transferred to a federal court in Chicago, and then to Rockford, where it will be consolidated with another lawsuit challenging the change to the law.

The state has been prevented by a circuit court judge in Winnebago County from enforcing the law against three health care providers that operate pregnancy centers in Rockford, Chicago and the suburbs while the case is being heard.

Under the modified legislation, patients who were not told about their options could sue their health care provider for malpractice, and Olp said that the doctors or nurses could be disciplined directly by the state's licensing board.

Catholic health care providers in the state have not joined the legal challenge to the law sponsored by Sen. Daniel Bliss, an Evanston Democrat. The Catholic Conference of Illinois remained neutral on the measure and stated that Catholic health care facilities are already adhering to the dictates of the new law.

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