Ill. House Agriculture Committee Passes Two Bills Restricting Abortion Access

February 23, 2012 — The Illinois House Agriculture & Conservation Committee on Tuesday voted to approve two abortion measures, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (McDermott, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/21).

One bill (HB 4117), sponsored by Rep. Thomas Morrison (D), would require clinics that perform 50 or more abortion procedures annually to meet certain outpatient surgery center standards, such as having corridors that are eight-feet wide and electrical outlets on every wall (McFarland, AP/Chicago Tribune, 2/21).

Proponents of the bill said it would protect women's health, while abortion-rights advocates said it is an attempt to put the facilities out of business (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/21). The Illinois Department of Public Health, which opposes the bill, called the regulations "misguided" and medically unnecessary (AP/Chicago Tribune, 2/21).

The second bill (HB 4085), sponsored by Rep. Joseph Lyons (D) would require a woman to receive an ultrasound before obtaining abortion care. Providers would have to ask the woman if she wants to view the ultrasound image and the woman would have to fill out a form to decline the offer. Opponents of the measure said the requirement could be traumatic and coercive.

The bills will now advance to the full House, where similar measures have died in recent years.

The committee often is assigned hot-button conservative legislation that has nothing to do with the panel's jurisdiction because it is primarily made up of lawmakers from rural agricultural regions of the state who tend to be more socially conservative, according to the Post-Dispatch (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/21).

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and abortion-rights advocates said discussing the issue in a committee that typically deals with farming issues is offensive. "We're not talking about abortions for cows and pigs, right? We're talking about women," said state Rep. Deborah Mell (D), one of two members voting against the bills (AP/Chicago Tribune, 2/21).