Illinois passes the Reproductive Health Act while other states continue fighting Roe v. Wade

Mishal Nizar

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The Illinois house recently passed the Reproductive Health Act, which both repeals outdated, unconstitutional reproductive laws and enacts the Illinois Reproductive Health Act (IRHA). The IRHA gives individuals the right to make their own decisions about their reproductive health with limited government interference, and essentially, protects both a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy and a woman’s right to carry to term.

The IRHA also repeals the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975. Both laws were blocked by the courts and were ruled unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, but not formally repealed. The IRHA now classifies abortion as a healthcare right instead of a criminal activity.

Illinois is the first state to introduce a trigger law that lessens restrictions on abortions and health services. Activist and legal groups are hoping that Illinois will set an example for other states to introduce bills protecting a woman’s right to choose.

The Illinois bill comes at a time when 19 states, including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and Indiana,  have passed or initiated trigger laws to severely restrict abortion if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. According to CNN, Missouri is in danger of being the first state to stop providing abortions in the more than 45 years after Roe v. Wade. The state is refusing to renew the license of the only Planned Parenthood in the state, prompting a lawsuit from the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. While other services would still continue at the center, Missouri will have effectively banned abortion in 48 hours if they do not renew the license.

Most of these trigger laws in other states have been blocked or tied up in district courts, and are essentially passed in the hopes of initiating a Supreme Court case to overturn both Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. However, the Court has shown no signs of wanting to take up a landmark abortion case before the end of this term, and is instead allowing lower courts to continue blocking the bills that contradict Roe v. Wade. All eyes are on Justice Kavanaugh, who helped cement the current conservative majority but has previously said he would not overturn Roe v. Wade, according to Sen. Collins (R-ME). So far on the bench, he has shown a deep regard for constitutional precedent. In this case, there is precedent on top of precedent. Casey v. Planned Parenthood further protected female rights and upheld Roe v. Wade and the Court would have to overturn both decisions in order for these trigger laws to go into place.

Many constitutional questions are brought up when discussing women’s rights and abortions, such as the separation of church and state and right to privacy. Many anti-abortion activists and politicians use religion and personal beliefs to control women’s bodies. While everyone is absolutely entitled to their own personal and religious beliefs, the basic principle of the separation of church and state says that one’s religious beliefs cannot infringe on another person’s rights.

As for the right to privacy, the Constitution provides every citizen with a reasonable right to privacy. These rights are protected by the 14th Amendment, and solidified in other landmark court cases such as Katz v. United States. Interestingly enough, political conservatives argue for less government intervention and increased freedom in their own lives until it involves controlling a woman’s body. Even from the viewpoint of an ideological moderate, there are glaring issues with these laws that go against the founding principles of the country.

Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood continue to protect a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body, but the future of women’s rights remain uncertain in a time where women’s rights are under unconstitutional attacks by self-proclaimed conservatives across the country. But for the time being, Illinois continues to be a trailblazer for protecting women’s rights during a political era that has threatened female sovereignty in many other regions of the country and women across Illinois are certainly breathing a sigh of relief while their counterparts in other states continue the fight for their rights.