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Repeal of abortion parental notification law sent to Pritzker, House advances ban on using moral beliefs for COVID-19 vaccine refusal

In a night of high emotions, House Democrats voted to repeal the Parental Notice of Abortion Act and change the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act relating to COVID-19 — two measures opposed by Republicans, and a few Democrats.

State Rep. Anna Moeller speaks on the House floor late Wednesday night.
State Rep. Anna Moeller speaks on the House floor late Wednesday night.
Blue Room Stream

A parent or other adult family member would no longer need to be notified before a minor receives an abortion, under the repeal of a decades-old law the Illinois House sent late Wednesday to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk.

The late-night vote on that controversial topic came on the heels of the Illinois House passing another hot-button measure, sending to the state Senate a measure blocking the use of moral beliefs for refusing to comply with workplace COVID-19 vaccine mandates or other mitigations.

That measure aimed at the coronavirus pandemic passed after a heated debate, with one Republican legislator dubbing the proposed amendment “atrocious,” and a few Democrats breaking ranks and declining to support it.

On the issue of abortion, House members voted to repeal the Parental Notice of Abortion Act and pass the Youth Health and Safety Act. It passed in a 62 to 51 vote with three voting present and two not voting.

Barring any legislative maneuvers, the bill now goes to the governor’s desk.

In a spirited pitch for repeal, state Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, called the notification law “the last anti-abortion law that we have on our books” and said overturning it ensures “we are protecting our most vulnerable young people in Illinois.”

But emotions ran just as high on the other side of the aisle.

In an impassioned speech opposing the bill, state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, said a vote for the repeal is not just “failing girls — it’s failing good parents.”

“We’re not talking about 17-year-olds exclusively who are months away from being 18, we’re talking about middle schoolers — potentially parents of middle schoolers — not having the right to know that their daughter is going through this and not having the foreknowledge to know what happens afterwards,” Bourne said.

State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, speaks on the House floor Wednesday night.
State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, speaks on the House floor Wednesday night.
Blue Room Stream

The Legislature passed the Parental Notice of Abortion Act in 1995, but it didn’t go into effect until 2013 due to legal challenges. It requires a doctor providing care to a young person under age 18 who is seeking an abortion to notify a designated adult family member at least 48 hours before the procedure.

Six Democrats voted no on the repeal of the measure, while another three voted present. Two Democrats didn’t vote.

Just moments earlier, members of the House also engaged in a contentious debate late Wednesday on changes to the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act before voting to adopt the changes 64 to 52 with two voting present.

That measure now heads to the state Senate for debate.

Democrats contend the act, which has been on the books since 1998, was originally designed to protect doctors, nurses and other health care providers who refused to perform medical procedures — such as abortions — that they’re opposed to.

But House Democrats and members of the Pritzker administration argue the act is being misused by some to refuse to comply with COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other efforts to curb the pandemic.

Still, seven Democrats broke ranks on the measure to vote no, and another two Democrats voted present.

The proposed amendment to that law, sponsored by state Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, is intended to make clear that public officials and private companies can impose COVID-19 requirements as part of conditions of employment.

Previous language in her amendment said those who don’t comply with the requirements could be fired, but that language was eliminated in a new amendment filed Wednesday — though officials and companies would still be able to “enforce” the COVID-19 measures or requirements and would not be considered in violation of the act.

Gabel said the removal of that language came from “feedback in committee.”

On Wednesday, Gabel said the law exists “to preserve” the ability of health care providers to refuse to perform some medical procedures that violate their conscience.

State Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, speaks on the House floor last month.
State Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, reads her proposed changes to the Health Care Right of Conscience Act on the House floor Wednesday night.
Blue Room Stream file

“We also know with certainty that the act is being intentionally distorted by those who favor misinformation over fact, and those who are using this act to justify their desire to thumb their noses at the mitigation efforts imposed, by employers,” Gabel said.

Gabel sought to make clear the changes don’t constitute a vaccine mandate, and people can still request exemptions from vaccinations for medical or religious reasons.

Republicans lambasted the proposed changes.

State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dietrich, called the measure “atrocious.”

State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dietrich, speaks to constituents on Facebook Wednesday morning.
State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dietrich, speaks to constituents on Facebook Wednesday morning.
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“This is unbelievable that we’re considering this on the House floor,” Niemerg said. “This is not about the Health Care Right of Conscience. This is about the last 18 months of unilateral authority from the governor. Now he’s asking us to remove the only opposition ... so they can force vaccination on us.”

Follow up legislation to a bill creating an elected school board in Chicago was also sent to Pritzker’s desk.

That legislation got the final thumbs up from the Senate Wednesday evening. The bill clarifies that board members will not be compensated and removes a requirement that the mayor seek the advice, and consent, of the City Council for her picks for a hybrid board before the fully elected board is in place.

The bill also moves up a moratorium on school closings from June 2022 to the day the governor signs the legislation. The moratorium would still end when the first elected members of the board take their seats in 2025.

State Sen. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, said some stakeholders asked for the start of the moratorium to be moved up out of fear that officials would close schools while they could.

In exchange for changing the moratorium, Martwick and others removed the advice and consent requirement.

That legislation passed the Senate 43 to 14 with two not voting. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

A new proposal for redrawn boundaries for the state’s congressional districts based on the latest Census figures also came out Wednesday night.

Wednesday night’s map is the third iteration of proposed congressional boundaries released by the state’s Democratic mapmakers. It keeps the expected split between 14 Democratic seats and three Republican seats seen in a map released over the weekend.

Lawmakers will likely vote on the map Thursday, during their final slated day of veto session.