Sponsor of State Law Targeting Crisis Pregnancy Centers in ‘Shock and Dismay’ After AG Backs Off Legal Fight

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (Capitol News Illinois file photo)Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (Capitol News Illinois file photo)

The sponsor of a state law intended to stop “deceptive” practices by anti-abortion advocates and centers said she is in “shock and dismay” over a pending legal arrangement agreed to by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul that will effectively nullify the law that he championed.

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

Opponents of the Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act sued over the law immediately after Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed it in July.

The law has had scant chance to be tested. A week later, federal Judge Iain Johnston issued a preliminary injunction.

The agreement between Raoul, a Democrat, and the plaintiffs — the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, some Illinois limited-service pregnancy clinics and “sidewalk counseling organizations” like the Pro-Life Action League and Rockford Family Initiative — will permanently keep the law from taking effect.

The law (Senate Bill 1909 / Public Act 103-0270) bans clinics that do pregnancy testing, pregnancy and contraceptive counseling, sonograms and prenatal care but that don’t provide abortions, abortion referrals or emergency contraception from using “deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, or misrepresentation” to keep someone from going to a clinic that offers abortions.

Thomas More Society attorney Peter Breen, plaintiffs’ lead counsel, called the law a “flagrant violation of the First Amendment.”

“This law is just one of a number of illegal new laws enacted across the country that restrict pro-life speech—we hope this permanent injunction, with full attorney’s fees, serves as a warning to other states that would seek to follow Illinois and try to silence pro-life viewpoints,” Breen said in a statement.

Sponsoring state Rep. Terra Costa Howard, a Democrat from Glen Ellyn, said her objective is to protect women.

“Our objective was to stop the lying, to stop the harassment of people outside any of these fake clinics,” she said.

Costa Howard said in the past, agents of the so-called pregnancy crisis clinics would pose as an associate of a full-service pregnancy clinic as a means of keeping women from going to a place that provides abortions.

“They stand outside, wear vests like escorts do — all they can to make themselves look legitimate or move them into their clinic — then they make them late for their actual appointment,” Costa Howard said. “Many women go, they have no idea what’s happening.”

Costa Howard said even with the injunction, since the law passed abortion opponents have “lightened up” on those tactics.

“Now we’ve opened the door and let them back in,” she said.

Costa Howard, a lawyer, said she can’t understand Raoul’s about-face, noting that the law stemmed from one she drafted with his office.

“I would never file a bill that would put women in danger, and I am unwilling to risk women’s lives for a press pop,” Costa Howard said. “I would rather fight and fail than not fight at all.”

Costa Howard said the agreement Raoul reached caught her off guard.

Raoul in a statement said that the proposed agreement “in no way affects my ongoing work protecting women’s rights to access the full range of reproductive health services.”

The attorney general indicated he has authority under Illinois’ current law against consumer fraud and deceptive practices that could be used to prosecute the types of activity banned under the pregnancy-specific law.

“Patients in Illinois can be assured that as states continue to enact draconian restrictions on access to reproductive health care, I will not waver in my efforts to ensure that Illinois remains an oasis of reproductive freedom in the middle of our nation,” Raoul said.

Raoul’s office on Tuesday did not answer questions about why he pursued the new law if it wasn’t needed, nor did spokespeople offer comment in response to Costa Howard’s frustrations.

“If the attorney general wasn’t prepared to defend the law — even a little bit — it never should have been introduced,” said Lisa Battisfore, president of Reproductive Transparency Now.

Anti-abortion groups are celebrating and said they hope the agreement — which puts Illinois on the hook for covering plaintiffs’ attorneys costs — serves as a warning.

“SB 1909 was an absolute weaponization of government that unfairly and unconstitutionally targeted pregnancy centers simply because they refused to refer for or perform abortions,” National Institute of Family and Life Advocates President Thomas Glessner said.

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors