Illinois will remain ‘beacon of hope’ for women, Pritzker vows after leaked Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion

Abortion would be made illegal in 26 states, including neighboring Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, if the landmark case is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

SHARE Illinois will remain ‘beacon of hope’ for women, Pritzker vows after leaked Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, surrounded by the state’s Democrats, denounced a leaked U.S. Supreme Court briefing that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, surrounded by the state’s Democrats, denounced a leaked U.S. Supreme Court briefing that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Tina Sfondeles/ Sun-Times

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday vowed the state would remain a “beacon of hope in an increasingly dark world” — a day after an explosive leak revealed the U.S. Supreme Court may be preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, and obtained by Politico, would overturn the landmark case that upheld the constitutional right to abortion for nearly half a century.

Pritzker also voiced his anger at Republicans, warning that if the abortion rights case is overturned, the Supreme Court may target other rights, such as marriage equality and civil rights for marginalized and minority communities.

“I’m so tired of the same old BS on the right. Don’t angrily shout about freedom and then engineer it away from more than half of Americans,” the Chicago Democrat said. “Stop pretending you’re patriots when you’re cheering the death of democracy.”

Midwestern neighbors Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Michigan are among 22 states that already have laws or constitutional amendments in place that would make them certain to ban abortion as soon as the 1973 case is reversed, according to the Guttmacher Institute.Indiana and three others are likely to ban abortion without federal protections in place.

Illinois in 2019 established in state law the right to reproductive health care, including abortion — a measure put in place just in case the landmark Supreme Court case was overturned.

The groundwork to protect abortion in Illinois was set in 2017, when Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a measure that both allowed the public funding of abortions and ensured the procedure would remain legal.

And in December, Pritzker signed a measure that repealed the last state law on the books that restricted abortion rights — a law that stopped minors from having to give parental notification before having an abortion.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference in February.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference in February.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Pritzker, who said as a child he marched with his late mother in support of legalized abortion, has been a staunch defender of a woman’s right to choose. The state’s top abortion rights groups endorsed Pritzker’s reelection campaign last week.

“Illinois is a beacon of hope in an increasingly dark world. Because we will fight like hell, not just for the women of Illinois, but for every person in our state and every person across the nation who believes not in limiting civil rights and human rights, but in expanding them,” Pritzker said at a news conference Tuesday surrounded by nearly 30 Democratic state representatives and senators, many with tears in their eyes.

The Democratic governor, who has doled out his own money for his reelection campaign and to Chicago’s bid to host the 2024 Democratic National Convention, said he’s also prepared to contribute to tight races to help Democrats fighting for reproductive rights.

“I’ve been doing it my whole adult life. Of course,” Pritzker said. “I want to do everything that I can do. It is my voice though that I think makes the biggest difference.”

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, who sponsored the legislation that Rauner signed, said the state’s Democrats must come up with other ways to protect women in states that may restrict abortion, including helping them get to Illinois or become Illinois residents.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 7,534 nonresidents received abortions in Illinois in 2019, compared with 5,529 in 2017 and 2,970 in 2014.

“There are also ways that we can make our state more welcoming to folks who are coming here for sanctuary. In theory, ‘Hey Alabama family, you’re a teacher. We can make it easier for you to transfer your license and come become an Illinoisan, and we can provide protections for the various providers beyond just health care providers,’” Cassidy said.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy speaks with reporters in 2018.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy speaks with reporters in 2018.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

“There are things that we can ensure that there are resources available for patients who maybe used their last penny to get here from Texas.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot raised many of those same concerns at a separate event hours before joining members of the Illinois congressional delegation in support of reproductive rights at the office of Planned Parenthood, 17 N. State.

“I also want to say to my brothers and sisters of color and also my siblings in the LGBTQ+ community: This is something that we all need to unite around because, today it’s women’s rights. Tomorrow, they’re coming for us. So, we’ve got to be stalwart, determined and defiant in the face of this.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a news conference last month.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a news conference last month.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Although Illinois is a “very blue state” where the right to an abortion will undoubtedly be protected, Lightfoot said she’s also very concerned about an influx of abortion seekers from other states, including Wisconsin, descending on Chicago abortion clinics.

“We have to ... be prepared for that onslaught. And many of the people who are gonna be seeking care are gonna need to come to Chicago,” Lightfoot said.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the capacity in our health care system to be able to accommodate these women and their families that are gonna be looking to cities like Chicago from all over the country to be a beacon of hope and sanity in what, I think, [will be] a very difficult and insane time when that decision comes down.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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