Courts Reproductive Rights

Anti-Choice Group Files Lawsuit Against Illinois Reproductive Health Act

On June 10, the Thomas More Society (TMS) filed a lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Insurance claiming that the Illinois Reproductive Health Act is unconstitutional and violates the religious liberties of its clients. TMS argues that the law requiring employers to provide insurance that covers abortions violates the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Illinois Right of Conscience Act, which both prevent the government from interfering with Illinoisans’ religious freedom. The plaintiffs want the abortion coverage mandate to be declared unlawful and request that an injunction be enacted prohibiting Illinois from enforcing the abortion coverage requirements.

The Illinois Reproductive Health Act was signed into law on June 12, 2019. A portion of the law requires private health insurance policies which cover pregnancy related care to also cover abortion costs. The law also establishes abortion as a “fundamental right.” The 2019 act repeals the outdated Illinois Abortion Law of 1975 which mandated spousal consent and waiting periods, as well as criminalized abortions, although this portion of the law had not been enforced for a number of years. Governor Pritzker stated that the law was “a giant step forward for women’s health.” The President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Jennifer Welch, proclaimed that by enacting the law Illinois sent a “very clear message – a woman, not politicians, should make decisions when it comes to her own pregnancy.”

TMS is an anti-choice law firm based in Chicago which describes itself as “dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty.” TMS filed the suit on behalf of three employers – the Illinois Baptist State Association, Southland Smiles, and Rock River Cartage. In a comment on the TMS website, Peter Breen, Vice President and Senior Counsel for the TMS, argued that “Radical partisans have forced employers of faith in Illinois into a terrible choice: either pay for the intentional termination of unborn children, or leave your employees’ families and your own without health insurance.” He went on to declare that the Illinois Reproductive Health Act was unconstitutional and a violation of religious freedom.

Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association in Springfield and a plaintiff in the case, asserted that his association “cannot morally participate in the funding of abortion” which is against the organization’s “deeply-held beliefs.” He proclaimed that “the state of Illinois is forcing us to do that and that is illegal.”

The director of the Women’s and Reproductive Rights Project for the ACLU of Illinois, Ameri Klafeta, responded to the suit by saying that it was “straight out of the Thomas More Society playbook.” She went on to state that, “having lost an argument over the availability of abortion care in the hearts and minds of the American people and the legislature, TMS has run to court in an attempt to impose their religious views on all people in Illinois, including abortion care. It is beyond cruel to try and reduce access to basic health care in the midst of a pandemic.”

Sources: Alton Daily News 6/17/20; Rewire News 12/12/16; Rewire News 11/28/16; Chicago Tribune 6/12/19; Thomas More Society 6/10/20; Thomas More Society; Herald & Review 6/11/20