- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Republican governor of Illinois signed a bill into law forcing medical professionals and pregnancy centers to promote abortion, regardless of their religious or moral convictions.

SB 1564 amends the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act so as to compel pro-life doctors and clinics to refer patients to health care providers who will perform abortions.

The legislation narrowly passed in the state House on strictly partisan lines, but Gov. Bruce Rauner broke ranks when he signed the bill into law Friday.

Emily Zender, executive director of Illinois Right to Life, said she was “extremely disappointed in Gov. Rauner for siding with pro-abortion Democrats” on the issue.

“This radical bill is a direct assault on the consciences of medical professionals and the missions of the community supported pregnancy help centers,” Ms. Zender said in a press release.

State Senator Daniel Biss, a Democrat who sponsored SB 1564, praised the governor’s decision. He said medical providers “should and do have the right” to refuse services inconsistent with their religious or moral convictions.

“But we have a moral obligation to ensure patients are protected and have rights as well,” Mr. Biss said in a press release. “They are entitled to information about their health and the treatment options available to them so that they make informed decisions and access the services they need.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to the governor before he signed the legislation imploring him to veto the bill. The group said SB 1564 violates federal law and jeopardizes federal Medicaid reimbursements.

“No state can rob women of the right to choose a pro-life doctor by forcing pro-life physicians and entities to make or arrange abortion referrals. That’s what federal law clearly states,” said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman in a press release at the time.

The federal Coats-Snowe amendment prohibits state and local governments that receive federal funds from discriminating against health care entities that refuse to provide referrals or make arrangements for abortions.

The ADF letter said legislation similar to SB 1564 — passed in Austin, Texas, Baltimore and Montgomery County, Maryland, and New York City — has been struck down in court.

“Alliance Defending Freedom has represented multiple pro-life pregnancy help organizations in federal lawsuits in which we have obtained court orders against laws that attempted to force the pregnancy center to recite government’s message,” the letter said.

A legal challenge to California’s Reproductive FACT Act, which requires pregnancy clinics to advertise how women can secure state-funded abortions, was heard before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in June.

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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