Illinois Law Targeting ‘Deceptive’ Anti-Abortion Ministries Officially Scrapped

Illinois State Capitol. (WTTW News)Illinois State Capitol. (WTTW News)

So-called pregnancy crisis centers are now free to use any means to reach potential clients in Illinois without threat of running afoul of a state law designed to rein in their messaging.

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Illinois’ new law banning “deceptive” practices by anti-abortion ministries, passed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, is scrapped before ever materially taking effect.

Judge Iain Johnston of the U.S. District Court’s Northern District, Western Division, on Thursday finalized an agreement reached earlier this week by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, whose office defended the law on behalf of the state, and the plaintiffs, including the National Institute of

Family and Life Advocates and the Pro-Life Action League.

The anti-abortion groups argued the law was an attempt to silence them, in breach of First Amendment protections.

The Illinois Freedom Caucus called it a “tremendous victory for the sanctity of human life and for the freedom of speech.”

“The Injunction preventing this Orwellian law from ever being enforced in Illinois is welcome news. Our Constitution grants everyone the right to free speech,” members of the conservative group of lawmakers said in a statement. “Women seeking help from a crisis pregnancy center are doing so by choice. No one is forced to ever walk into a crisis pregnancy center. The authoritarians on the left may not like what these centers represent, but our Constitution gives them the right to exist.”

Freedom Caucus state Reps. Chris Miller, R-Hindsboro; Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City; Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich; Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville; Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur; Jed Davis, R-Newark, and David Friess, R-Red Bud, called for vigilance against the “woke overlords in Springfield” pushing “the totalitarian agenda of the radical left.”

Raoul, for whom passage of the Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act was a signature achievement, did not explain why he entered an agreement to cancel it rather than pursue additional court action.

But Raoul said in a statement on Monday that the judicial order would not prevent him from using Illinois’ generic consumer fraud law.

“I remain committed to protecting consumers against all deceptive practices,” Raoul said in the statement. “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.”

Sponsoring state Rep. Terra Costa Howard, D-Glen Ellyn, said even though Johnston issued a preliminary injunction preventing the law from being enforced shortly after it was singed into law this summer, it helped to keep anti-abortion crusaders from using “deceptive” tactics to keep women from going to clinics that provide abortions.

Costa Howard said she fears that without the threat of fines, such behavior could return.

Pregnancy crisis centers, referenced in the law as limited service pregnancy centers given that they offer ultrasounds and prenatal care but not contraception or abortions, are often located near – and even next to – clinics that prescribe birth control and abortions.

The law forbid limited service pregnancy centers from using “fraud, false pretense, false promise, or misrepresentation, or the concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact” to interfere with or prevent someone from accessing an abortion provider. 

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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