National Partnership for Women & Families

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CPCs file another lawsuit against Ill. law requiring antiabortion facilities to inform patients about alternative options

Several crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in Illinois have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a recently added amendment (PA 099-0690) to the state's Healthcare Right of Conscience Act, the Rockford Register Star reports.

The amended law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2017 (Zambo, Rockford Register Star, 9/29).

Background

The amendment changes the state's Health Care Right of Conscience Act, which allows institutions and employees to refuse to provide certain services because of ethical and religious reasons. According to experts, objections under the law can include opposition to providing contraception, gender transition-related care or certain end-of-life services.

Specifically, the law requires hospitals to share information about other health care facilities with a patient in writing, or refer or transfer the patient to that facility. Hospitals would only have to provide the information if a patient requested the denied service. Under the law, hospitals are not required to confirm that other facilities provide the unmet services; they only need to have "reasonable belief" that they do.

The change applies to all hospitals in the state. However, the law has particular relevance for Catholic-affiliated hospitals, which handle about 25 percent of all admissions in the state.

In August, after Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed the amendment, two CPCs and a physician who oppose abortion rights filed suit over the legislation. The Alliance Defending Freedom filed the lawsuit on behalf of Pregnancy Care Center, a CPC in Rockford, Illinois; Aid for Women, a Chicago-based not-for-profit that operates six CPCs and two residential programs; and Anthony Caruso, a physician who works at A Bella Baby OBGYN and serves as medical director for several CPCs in the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/8).

Latest lawsuit

The Alliance Defending Freedom filed the latest lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, Tri-County Crisis Pregnancy Center, the Life Center,

Mosaic Pregnancy & Health Centers and Tina Gingrich, a physician who works at the Maryville Women's Center and serves as the medical director of Mosaic. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit against Rauner and Bryan Schneider, secretary of the state's Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

The plaintiffs claim that the amendment requires CPCs to counsel women seeking abortion care and refer them to abortion providers. According to the plaintiffs, the CPCs' and employees' rights to freedom of religion and free speech will be violated if they are required to comply with the law.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to permanently block the state from enforcing the amended law and from penalizing those who violate the legislation (Rockford Register Star, 9/29).