Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker drew enthusiastic whoops and cheers from the crowd Wednesday at a festive ceremony that saw him sign a bill creating a “fundamental right” to abortion and clearing the way for late-term procedures.
The Democratic governor was interrupted frequently by hoots and applause as he spoke to the crowd before signing the Reproductive Health Act at the Chicago Cultural Center, featuring signs from the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.
He was surrounded by state legislators as he signed the bill with multiple pens, which were passed around to supporters, and received hugs afterward as the crowd applauded, as shown on live video by ABC7 in Chicago.
“Let the word go forth today from this place, that if you believe in standing up for women’s fundamental rights, Illinois is a beacon of hope in the heart of this nation,” Mr. Pritzker said. “We trust women.”
The Reproductive Health Act repeals the Illinois Abortion Act of 1975 and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, removing criminal penalties for doctors who perform the procedures and allowing abortions at any point during pregnancy to protect “the health of the patient.”
The measure, Senate Bill 25, also requires insurance coverage for elective abortion and expands coverage for contraception.
The Illinois bill illustrated the divide between red-state legislatures passing laws to narrow abortion access and blue states seeking to “codify” the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision against the high court’s newly minted 5-4 conservative majority.
“The Reproductive Health Act ensures that women’s rights in Illinois do not hinge on the fate of Roe v. Wade or the whims of an increasingly conservative supreme court in Washington,” Mr. Pritzker said. “In this state, women will always have the right to reproductive health care.”
The mood was far more somber at a press conference held afterward by Illinois pro-life activists, who said the law also puts at risk the state’s parental-notice law and state inspections of abortion clinics.
“Under this law, every single one of my patients could be legally killed in utero in our state. What does this say about this law? What does that say our politicians? What does that say about our leaders?” said Emily Kelly, who identified herself as a neonatal nurse at a large hospital.
March for Life tweeted that the Illinois bill was “abortion extremism at its worst,” while other pro-life supporters said the measure went “way beyond Roe.”
Jennifer Welch, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said at the signing ceremony that “we are in the fight of our lives.”
“No other healthcare is as scrutinized and as stigmatized as abortion,” said Ms. Welch. “The RHA is an important step to remove the stigma surrounding a simple procedure that one in four women will have in their lifetime.”
Mr. Pritzker’s public signing celebration came in stark contrast to the approach of Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a pro-choice Republican who signed a far-reaching abortion law Monday in private, issuing a brief statement afterward.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo drew a backlash in January after signing a “codify Roe” bill accompanied by cheers and applause, after which One World Trade Center was lit up in pink lights.
Elected in November, Mr. Pritzker promised to make Illinois the most progressive state on “protecting reproductive rights.”
“With the signing of the Reproductive Health Act, I’m keeping that promise,” he said.