CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Democratic leaders in the Illinois General Assembly are pushing back a planned special legislative session aimed at increasing legal protections for abortion providers and patients in Illinois.
Pritzker, Senate President Don Harmon of Oak Park and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside released a joint statement Tuesday stating they would call lawmakers back to Springfield “in the coming months” to work on strengthening the already formidable abortion protections in a state where the procedure is enshrined in law as a “fundamental right.”
Just two weeks ago, the three Democrats had said they planned to hold a special session after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed the right to obtain an abortion with minimal government interference. One aim of the special session is also to make sure Illinois is prepared for a greater influx of people from other states crossing into Illinois to terminate a pregnancy, Pritzker has said.
When the high court struck down Roe in a June 24 ruling, Pritzker said he and the legislative leaders would call a special session “in the coming weeks” and were “committed to taking swift action to further enshrine our commitment to reproductive health care rights and protections.” Welch added he expected the session to occur in July.
“As we build on Illinois’ nation-leading abortion protections and access, it is essential to bring lawmakers and advocates into the room to continue to work together,” the trio said Tuesday in their joint statement. “In the coming weeks, as the ripples of the decision to overturn Roe are felt throughout the nation, we expect to get an acute sense of our needs and how Illinois can play an even more vital role in standing up for reproductive freedom.”
A day after a mass shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade left at least six dead and two dozen wounded, Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said there had not been discussions about whether to add gun safety measures to the special session’s agenda.
As for taking more time before convening lawmakers on abortion, “we need to look at how this is already impacting states and how it will impact states over the next couple months,” Abudayyeh said.
During a White House call with Democratic governors on Friday, Pritzker called for additional federal funding to help states where abortion remains legal.
The first-term Democrat has made his support for abortion rights a central theme of his reelection campaign. In the November general election, he faces conservative state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, who has said he is opposed to abortion in all cases except to spare the life of the mother.
Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois, said the organization supported the delay as a “careful, deliberate approach” and that the goal of the special session is to “put in protections that are holistic, well-researched, include the voices of providers and advocates and can withstand the inevitable challenge of anti-abortion foes in Illinois.”