Ask Amy: Are Medical Practitioners Required to Perform Abortions?

Dear Amy,

SB0025 of 6/12/19 repealed the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act, and the Abortion Performance Refusal Act.

I have reached out to the bill’s author Melinda Bush several times to learn if the repeal of the Abortion Performance Refusal Act would require medical practitioners to participate in performing abortions at the threat of employment termination. I also asked my rep Joyce Mason to explain the implications of this to me. Neither has responded.   




Because I’ve been in Illinois for less than a year and am still learning the intricacies of our state laws, this week’s “Ask Amy” is actually “Ask Ralph”, as in Ralph Rivera, Illinois Right to Life’s Legislative Chairman!

I ran your question past Ralph and this is what he had to say:

SB 25 as enrolled (on page 9, lines 1-2) repealed The Abortion Performance Refusal Act (enacted in 1973) which protected medical personnel from being forced to perform abortions. It has been my understanding that the Illinois State Medical Society pushed for this legislation after Roe v. Wade in 1973 to protect their physicians from being forced to do abortions.  Legal opinion was that the intent of the General Assembly in SB 25 could be argued to remove right of conscience protection when it comes to abortion in The Health Care Right of Conscience Act.

“To overcome this argument in order to get more votes, SB 25 was amended by amending The Health Care Right of Conscience Act in the Definitions  section (Sec. 3 of 745 ILCS 70/3) for ‘Health care’ to include ‘or an abortion as defined by the Reproductive Health Act.’ (on page 122-123 of enrolled SB 25)  Since the RHA itself is clarifying that the HCRCA continues to protect the right of conscience of abortions, then there is no conflict with the two laws and the HCRCA is protected.”

I asked Ralph about some specific language on the ACLU website that stated providers can opt out of participating in abortions if they refer for abortions. This was his response:

“As to the ACLU website and it saying the HCRCA ‘lets providers refuse to offer these services [aren’t they kind] as long as they follow protocols to ensure that patients are given all relevant information to access the care they need.’  A law passed in 2016 amending the HCRCA  would force medical personnel (and it turned out pregnancy resource centers that do ultasounds and pregnancy tests) to refer for abortions; or transfer patients to where they could get an abortion; or provide patients with information on where they could find abortion facilities (witness for the bill said they could give patients a list of places that do abortions or even the yellowpages as long as they check marked the places that do abortions — I was in the committee where the witness said this ).  However, this law NEVER went into effect because it was enjoined by a federal court because the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down a similar law in California because of forced speech, among other things.”

Also, if you saw last week’s edition of the Informer, we featured a story about a nurse from Illinois who won a wrongful termination case here in Illinois after she was fired for not participating in abortions. 

So, despite the fact that Illinois has some of the most permissive abortion laws in the nation, physicians and other health care professionals ARE still protected in Illinois.

Thanks so much for your question!