Measure to Ban Chicago Police from Investigating People Seeking Abortions or Their Doctors Advances

Chicago Police would be permanently banned from cooperating with probes into those who travel to the city for abortions or their doctors under a measure that won the unanimous support of a key city panel Thursday.

The measure, known as the “Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City Ordinance,” would ratify and expand an executive order signed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in July after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

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The proposed ordinance, authored by Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd Ward) is set for a final vote by the full City Council on Sept. 21 after the unanimous endorsement of the City Council’s Health and Human Relations Committee.

No City Council member objected to the measure.

The proposal is modeled on the city’s rules designed to protect immigrants from prohibiting members of the Chicago Police Department from cooperating with federal law enforcement agencies, Rodriguez Sanchez said.

Read the full proposal.

The immigrant rights movement gave us the “blueprint” that officials can “use to protect everybody else, everybody else, who is in need of refuge,” Rodriguez Sanchez said.

In addition to preventing probes of those who travel to Chicago for reproductive health care, including abortion care, the measure would protect those who travel to Chicago for gender-affirming care.

Lightfoot issued her executive order a week after Rodriguez Sanchez introduced the measure, but did not include protections for those who sought gender-affirming care.

Lightfoot said she issued the executive order to ensure Chicago remains a “safe haven” for people seeking care now banned in their home states while the City Council was on its annual August recess.

Protections for undocumented immigrants have been in place in Chicago since 1985, when former Mayor Harold Washington issued an executive order prohibiting city employees from enforcing federal immigration laws. It became law in 2006 and was reaffirmed after the 2016 election of former President Donald Trump. With Lightfoot’s support, the City Council voted to expand those protections twice in 2020, after the election of President Joe Biden. 

Abortion is a rare source of agreement between Lightfoot and the progressive members of the City Council, an indication that the issue of reproductive rights will scramble the usual political divisions at City Hall.

Ald. Matt Martin (47th Ward) said it was “absolutely wrong” for people to be attacked for seeking the health care they need — whether they live in Chicago or out of state.

“We’re interconnected,” Martin said, adding calling it an example of “myopic thinking” to ignore injustices outside Illinois. “We’ll continue to find opportunities to support folks to come to our city to exercise their basic human rights.” 

Led by Rodriguez Sanchez, the alderpeople also introduced a measure in July that would earmark $1 million in the city’s 2023 spending plan to ensure people can access abortion in Chicago, where clinics have been deluged by calls for help from people traveling from Wisconsin and other states where abortion is now banned.

The City Council is not scheduled to consider that measure this month.

After an early version of the Supreme Court decision that would overturn the federal right to an abortion leaked in May, Lightfoot set aside $500,000 to help organizations like Chicago Abortion Fund and the Midwest Access Coalition provide transportation, housing and care to those seeking an abortion.

While Lightfoot has said more funding will be needed, she stopped short of endorsing the measure authored by Rodriguez Sanchez.

Alicia Hurtado, of the Chicago Abortion Fund, said the group expects the number of Indiana residents calling for assistance to soar when a ban on abortion in Indiana takes effect on Sept. 15.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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