Illinois pregnancy centers sue governor over law requiring them to promote abortions

Exterior of The Women's Center in Chicago, Illinois. | Wikimedia Commons/Visviva

Eighteen pregnancy resource centers in Illinois have filed a lawsuit against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner over a new law that requires doctors and health centers to refer pregnant women for abortions despite their conscience-based objection to the procedure.

Senate Bill 1564, which amended the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, was signed into law by Rauner last August, and it took effect on Jan. 1, 2017. The bill did not receive any Republican votes in the Senate or in the Illinois House.

An injunctive relief was filed by the Thomas More society on behalf of the 18 health centers, citing violations of multiple rights under the Illinois Constitution, Life News reported.

Thomas Olp, Attorney for the Thomas More Society, said that the law required the pro-life centers "to discuss 'benefits' of abortion with their clients and to name abortion providers upon request."

Olp argued that does not have a compelling reason for the requirement as there is readily available information about abortion from public and private sources.

"The new law strikes at the Plaintiffs' faith-based ability to render effective assistance to pregnant women about child bearing and child rearing by requiring them to substitute a secular government-sponsored message totally at odds with their faith position. The government is not permitted constitutionally to do this, in our view," said Olp.

Thomas More Society has also filed action last week on behalf of The Women's Centers of Greater Chicagoland and Hope Life Center in Sterling, Illinois.

Mary Strom, the executive director of The Women's Centers, said that the success of the organization is directly linked to its Catholic identity even though it serves women of all faiths.

Laura Petigoue, who founded the Hope Life Center in Sterling, Illinois with her husband Mark, described the state's adoption of the law as "monstrously prejudicial." Hope Life Executive Director Debbie Case said that the center has suspended all of its medical services because of the new law.

"We're seeking relief from this law so we can get back to doing what we do best, taking care of vulnerable women in our community," said Case.

Some of the pregnancy centers in the lawsuit include Abigail Women's Clinic in Mendota, Family Life Center, Inc. in Effingham, First Step Women's Center in Springfield, Lighthouse Pregnancy Center in Vandalia, Options Now in Godfrey, Southside Pregnancy Center, Inc. in Oak Lawn and the Spoon River Pregnancy Resource Center in Canton.