FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mary Kate Zander
Illinois Right to Life
E: [email protected]
July 27, 2023
ILLINOIS RIGHT TO LIFE RESPONDS TO GOVERNOR J.B. PRITZKER SIGNING OF SENATE BILL 1909
(SPRINGFIELD, IL) – – On Thursday, July 27, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1909, the “Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act,” sponsored by Sen. Celina Villaneuva (D-12) and Rep. Terra Costa Howard (D-42).
Senate Bill 1909 empowers the Illinois Attorney General to take action against pro-life pregnancy resource centers through fines up to $50,000 for “deceptive practices” that dissuade a woman from receiving an abortion or delay receipt of care. The bill does not, however, provide adequate definition, clarification, or examples of what behaviors would be considered “deceptive” under the proposed law.
“Full stop, this bill is a brazen attack on pro-life pregnancy resource centers,” said Illinois Right to Life Executive Director Mary Kate Zander. “FOIA requests determined there have been zero complaints filed against pro-life pregnancy centers, yet Attorney General Raoul and sponsors of this bill have repeatedly pointed to unsubstantiated accounts to justify this legislation. It’s a clear violation of free speech and an attack on Illinois’ pro-life movement. They have not heard the last of us on this.”
Proponents of SB1909 claim that this bill was born from a recurrence of incidents involving manipulative practices by pregnancy resource centers. In response, the Thomas More Society filed a FOIA request on behalf of a client seeking insight into any formal complaints that have been made by the public over the past ten years. The request returned zero relevant complaints filed by the public against pregnancy centers, and no legal action has ever been taken. This suggests that SB1909 is effectively “a solution without a problem” – while the bill has been held up as a necessary step to solving a major issue, no documentation of the issue appears to exist at the state level.
Opponents of the bill repeatedly attempted to seek clarification regarding the legal definition of “deceptive practices” during a spring committee hearing on the bill, and the Deputy Attorney General for Policy repeated verbatim the same scripted legal response: “we would evaluate each complaint on a case-by-case basis.”
From the perspective of state pro-life advocates, this bill is a direct attack on the work of pro-life pregnancy resource centers and a violation of protected free speech. As the language in the bill explicitly exempts abortion providers from the law while leaving the definition of “deceptive practices” unanswered and open-ended, Illinois pro-life advocates see this legislation as a “gotcha” political attack from abortion proponents.
Pregnancy centers have historically provided critical services to vulnerable low-income women, including counseling, important medical screenings, and prenatal services – as well as connections to other local and state resources for women.
A recent study found that pregnancy centers are more likely than abortion providers to offer same-day appointments and free pregnancy testing.
Another study by The Charlotte Lozier Institute reported that pro-life pregnancy centers in the U.S. served nearly 2 million people in 2019; 8 in 10 of the nation’s 2,700 pro-life pregnancy centers offered free ultrasounds and 810 of those offered free STD testing.