Illinois Pregnancy Care Centers Challenge Religious Refusals Law Believed to Require Abortion Referrals

pregnancy-pd-compressedSPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Three pregnancy care centers in Illinois have filed suit to challenge a medical religious refusals law, as it raises concerns that pro-life doctors might be forced to provide referrals to women seeking to obtain an abortion.

“Medical professionals and pregnancy care centers shouldn’t be forced to speak a message completely at odds with their mission and ethics,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot in a statement on Friday.

As previously reportedSenate Bill 1564, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), was introduced as a means to amend the Health Care Right of Conscience Act by requiring health care facilities to establish protocols in the event a staff member refuses involvement in a procedure due to their faith.

Protocols can include transferring the patient to another doctor or providing a referral.

“When a health care facility, physician, or health care personnel is unable to permit, perform, or participate in a health care service that is a diagnostic or treatment option requested by a patient because the health care service is contrary to the conscience of the health care facility, physician, or health care personnel, then the patient shall either be provided the requested health care service by others in the facility or be notified that the health care will not be provided and be referred, transferred, or given information…” the bill reads in part.

While groups like the ACLU supported the legislation, pro-life organizations in the state saw the measure as a threat to pro-life doctors and pregnancy care centers, as it could force medical staff to refer patients for an abortion. ADF therefore sent a letter to Gov. Bruce Rauner to encourage a veto, which he signed anyway.

On Thursday, several crisis pregnancy centers and others filed suit to challenge the law. Included in the suit are the facilities Informed Choices, TLC Pregnancy Services and Mosaic Pregnancy and Health Centers.

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“The religious beliefs and consciences of Informed Choices, TLC, and Mosaic, and their medical director, staff, and volunteers, prohibit them from referring a patient for an abortion, transferring a patient to an abortion provider, or providing in writing information to the patient about other health care providers who they reasonably believe may offer the patient an abortion or abortion causing drugs or devices,” the legal complaint reads.

“It would violate the religious and moral beliefs and conscience of Plaintiffs and their staff to comply with SB 1564 § 6.1(1)’s requirement that for every pregnant woman they treat, they must ‘inform’ her that abortion as a ‘legal treatment option,’ and that they must describe ‘benefits’ of abortion that they disagree with,” it states.

The suit contends that the requirement forces the pregnancy centers “to speak in a way that contradicts the pro-life mission their facilities were founded to promote, and the reasons they entered the medical profession.”

The facilities therefore request that the court issue an injunction against the enforcement of the law and a declaration that it violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“As our lawsuit explains, the law is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution and both federal and state law, which protect citizens from being forced by the government to live and act in a way contrary to their faith and conscience,” ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman said in a statement.

As previously reported, ADF already filed suit over the law in August.

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