Illinois House moves to protect emergency abortions ahead of US Supreme Court ruling

Before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, state lawmakers moved to protect abortion access in the state. Now ahead another looming major abortion decision by the nation's high court, the Illinois House took further action on Tuesday.

The court is expected to issue a ruling next month regarding an Idaho law prohibiting doctors from providing abortions to pregnant women in medical emergencies. The prosecution asserts this violates the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act since the law only permits abortion procedures when a woman's life, but not her health, is at-risk.

In response, the House passed House Bill 581 on a 71-36 vote along party lines. The measure, now heading to the Senate, effectively maintains the protections of the federal law in case the court rules to overturn the law.

Opposing protesters rally outside the Supreme Court as the justices hear oral arguments in Idaho v. United States on April 24, 2024.
Opposing protesters rally outside the Supreme Court as the justices hear oral arguments in Idaho v. United States on April 24, 2024.

More: SCOTUS considers whether Idaho abortion ban conflicts with federal law | The Excerpt

The bill led by Rep. Dagmara Avelar, D-Bolingbrook, is slightly tampered down from an earlier version which would have allowed private action against hospitals. Still, the Illinois Department of Public Health would have the right to investigate hospitals for violations and could issue penalties starting at $50,000.

Republicans made up all the 'no' votes and felt the bill was unnecessary. Rep. Bill Hauter, R-Morton, argued it only added confusion.

"I've been practicing emergency medicine for 27 years. I've never been involved with a case or heard about a case where abortion was necessary to stabilize a patient," he said during floor debate. "If it happened, if it was needed, current Illinois law would not prevent it."

Democrats countered that the Supreme Court's conservative majority made the bill necessary.

"EMTALA has worked for years at the federal level, but we anticipate that come June, it won't anymore," said Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago. "And because we're going to be out of session, we want to make sure that the exact same protections that we currently count on from the federal law are still available."

Other abortion-related legislation

The end of session fast-approaching, lawmakers previously took action on a bill eliminating a limit for patients to receive four rounds of IVF treatment covered by their private insurance.

More: Could a result in an Alabama election impact Illinois? One abortion-rights group says yes

House Minority Leader Tony McCombie previously told The State Journal-Register members of her caucus are split on IVF, which played out during last week's debate on Senate Bill 773 in a 90-17 vote. That bill now heads to the governor's desk.

On Wednesday, a Senate committee similarly approved legislation prohibiting the discrimination and harassment of an individual on the basis of a reproductive health decision they make. Groups such as the Illinois Freedom Alliance, however, assert House Bill 4867 is unconstitutional since it provides no exemptions for anti-abortion religious organizations.

Gov. JB Pritzker has also signaled he will not sign a birth equity bill if the Senate decides to amend it to remove abortion from a list of pregnancy, postpartum and newborn care services that would be covered by insurance. House Bill 5142 passed out of a Senate committee on Tuesday with that language in-tack.

Pritzker's abortion focus has largely been on other states such as Nevada and Arizona through his nonprofit Think Big America initiative where it is on the ballot this November. Floated as a possibility at one-point, it is unlikely that Illinois voters will see abortion on their ballots this year.

"We're focusing on states where those rights have either already been taken away or they're highly at risk," he said at an unrelated event in Springfield earlier in May. "You know, that's not the case here in the state of Illinois."

Contact Patrick M. Keck: 312-549-9340,,

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Illinois House passes bill protecting emergency abortion services