How Illinois is being held hostage by abortion rights extremists

Our state’s leaders are out of touch with the majority of voters. They have moved away from abortion being “safe, legal and rare” to embracing an agenda that suppresses real choice, state Rep. Bill Hauter writes.

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Pro-abortion rights activists scream at anti-abortion counter protesters during a pro-abortion rights rally at Federal Plaza in the Loop, Saturday afternoon, May 7, 2022. Thousands attended the rally, which was organized in response to a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, who supported overturning Roe v. Wade. If overturned, abortion would become illegal in 26 states. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Pro-abortion rights activists scream at anti-abortion counter-protesters at a rally at Federal Plaza in the Loop, May 7, 2022.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Illinois abortion policy and politics is out of balance with the people. and it’s time to find common ground.

As a pro-life physician and a newly elected state representative, I have been on the front lines of the abortion debate for a long time. My wife, a registered nurse, has volunteered, led and worked at various pregnancy care centers we support, and as adoptive parents, we are active in orphan adoption ministries.

We are passionately pro-life, and we have found in our work together that abortion supporters in Illinois can increasingly be divided into two camps — the pro-choice, “safe, legal and rare” camp and the radical pro-abortion minority who are unrelentingly expanding abortion while disregarding medical safeguards.

Polls of Illinoisans’ opinions on abortion have consistently shown a clear majority of voters are pro-choice, but these same polls also show voters reject radicalism. In a poll conducted last October, after the Dobbs decision, 52% of Illinoisans identified as pro-choice, but among them, only 24% were in the unrestricted group that said abortion should be legal in all cases. (Sun Times/WBEZ Poll October 2022).

Another poll last year showed only 22% of Illinoisans favored unlimited abortion, while a stunning 78% identified as either pro-life or pro-choice with at least some restrictions (Ogden & Fry poll June 2022). Clearly, our state is pro-choice, but not unrestricted pro-abortion.

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But our state’s leaders are out of touch with the majority of voters. They have moved away from abortion being “safe, legal and rare” to embracing an agenda that suppresses choice.

After expanding taxpayer-funded abortions and recklessly ending parental notification, the General Assembly recently removed medical safeguards and legal accountability for abortion clinics and providers — making abortion less safe.

As the only medical doctor in the Legislature, I objected to the continued expansion of abortion procedures to unaccountable non-physician technicians, who are often unable or unqualified to handle serious medical complications.

As a physician, patient safety must transcend party and ideology. Risks and complications are associated with any type of medical procedure, and it is physicians who can best minimize those risks and quickly recognize, respond and rescue our patients from complications. Mixing politics and medicine prioritizes ideology over safety.

Unfettered abortion is rapidly expanding as Illinois legislators made provisions to disrupt the vigorous licensing process for favored abortion providers, eliminated abortion center safety regulations and expanded tort immunity to protect abortion providers in lawsuits.

After maximal expansion of abortion access, pro-abortion extremists did not rest. Now they are actively working to remove real choices for pregnant women by targeting Pregnancy Care Centers (PCCs). A haphazardly designed bill empowers the Illinois attorney general to fine and shut down — and in my view, harass and intimidate — PCCs. Senate Bill 1909 was rushed through the Senate despite significant opposition and will be heard in the House soon.

Truly pro-choice individuals can recognize that PCCs give pregnant women many options including counseling, licensed medical care, material assistance, adoption services, maternal housing, ultrasounds, post-abortion psychological trauma care, parenting classes and more. These are real choices offered free, to all, without $1 from taxpayers. But “Big Abortion” wants to give struggling women one option, in other words … no choice.

Make no mistake about it, their aim is to shut down PCCs using the myth they deceive and misinform their clients. I attended the Senate committee hearings on this bill, and the lawyer for the attorney general could not give one example or answer one question on what the AG would consider deceptive practices.

Illinois already has clear laws for consumer protection that can be enforced on both PCCs and abortion centers equally. The bill’s incoherent and vague language, restrictions on free speech, and unfair and unequal treatment of PCCs are blatantly unconstitutional.

The majority in Illinois is being held hostage by the extreme pro-abortion minority. The reality is abortion is legal and will be legal in Illinois, but we can and must find common ground. This is the way forward.

Pro-choice and pro-life Illinoisans, while deeply disagreeing, can work together to oppose the pro-abortion minority who have hijacked the debate, made abortion riskier and now are actively working against what Illinois residents overwhelmingly say they want — real choices for pregnant women.

State Rep. Bill Hauter, R-Morton, is a board-certified physician in emergency medicine and anesthesiology in Peoria.

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