Pritzker calls threat to abortion rights ‘actual emergency’ voters must prevent — promises ‘legislators are hard at work,’ too

The event also highlighted that the pledge Pritzker made on June 24 to call the Illinois General Assembly back into session in Springfield to “further enshrine” reproductive rights remains unfulfilled.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference discussing Illinois’ role as a critical access point for abortion care in the Midwest on Tuesday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference discussing Illinois’ role as a critical access point for abortion care in the Midwest on Tuesday.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday vowed that “anti-choice” politicians will lose in November, as he stood surrounded by Planned Parenthood leaders who are still awaiting legislative fixes — and funds — to help handle an influx of patients coming to Illinois to seek abortion care services.

The campaign news conference was intended to show that the Democratic governor is indeed the candidate for Illinois voters who support abortion rights — as Democrats across the nation use the momentum of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade to bolster voter turnout.

“If we don’t re-elect a pro-choice Legislature, and yes, a pro-choice governor, Illinois could easily end up like one of our neighboring anti-choice states,” Pritzker said at Planned Parenthood’s Loop office.

“Darren Bailey has said clearly that he would not even allow abortion in cases of rape or incest, and he even compared it to the Holocaust. Darren Bailey’s dangerous politics are a threat to women and girls everywhere. This is not a drill. This is an actual emergency.”

But the event also highlighted that the pledge Pritzker made on June 24 to call the Illinois General Assembly back into session in Springfield to “further enshrine” reproductive rights remains unfulfilled. Similarly, Pritzker voiced support for an assault weapons ban after the Highland Park massacre. But is likely to find it difficult to drum up enough support in an election year.

“The legislators are hard at work now. I think you know, in working groups, in fact working with Planned Parenthood and many other pro-choice organizations to make sure that they can craft the legislation that we need,” Pritzker said of the delay in calling lawmakers back to Springfield.

Those discussions involve legislation to protect medical providers from legal, criminal and civil liability, expand the capacity of providers who can provide abortions and measures to protect and grow clinics, Pritzker said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference on Tuesday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference on Tuesday.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

For his part, Pritzker in August announced an increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates for abortion services, and state public health officials announced an additional $2 million in grants for providers offering family planning services.

And Illinois already has some of the strongest legislation in place to protect abortion rights. Under Pritzker, the state established in 2019 the right to reproductive health care, including abortions. The groundwork to protect abortion in Illinois was set in 2017 when Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a measure that both allowed public funding of abortions and ensured the procedure would remain legal — if Roe v. Wade was overturned.

And in December, Pritzker signed a measure that repealed the last state law on the books that restricted abortion rights — a law that stopped minors from being required to notify a parent or guardian before having an abortion.

Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region and Southwest Missouri, said the surge of patients coming into the downstate Fairview Heights clinic from neighboring states “came much faster” than they expected.

Rodriguez said wait times went from three to four days to two and a half weeks. She said Illinois has seen a 76% increase in abortions after 14 weeks of gestation.

“These wait times are impacting Illinois patients just as much as patients from other states. There is no time to waste. Just last week, four more states completely banned abortion and more will join the list very soon,” Rodriguez said. “We are leading a public health crisis, and we need our leaders to bring relief to the abortion providers and support services across the state.”

Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region and Southwest Missouri speaks at Tuesday’s news conference.

Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region and Southwest Missouri speaks at Tuesday’s news conference.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Rodriguez said, for now, Planned Parenthood is relying on private donations to fill a funding gap caused by an increase in patients.

“I think that Planned Parenthood has always straddled the mission versus endorsing that we have sustainability over time,” Rodriguez said. “And right now, what I can tell you, is that we are relying on the generosity and support of individuals in the wake of the Dobbs decision who have decided to take a stand and provide their support, including financial support.”

“Is this going to be sustainable over time, when we’re thinking $900 to $1,500 just to provide practical support for transportation and accommodation? No,” Rodriguez said. “And we made that very clear to Gov. Pritzker why this is an imperative, and we will continue to work with him to ensure that we have a sustainable platform here.”

Pritzker also highlighted the importance of the U.S. Senate, Illinois Supreme Court and other judicial races this November, saying abortion rights must remain a focal point.

“To those anti-choice politicians, know that we are coming for you. You will lose in November,” Pritzker said. “We cannot stand by while extremist retrograde Republican politicians and judges treat women like second class citizens.”

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