SPRINGFIELD — A bill overhauling Illinois’ abortion law and replacing it with a more liberal version has wide Democratic support in the House. But a Republican bill would impose new restrictions on access to late-term abortions.

The Reproductive Health Act, proposed by Rep. Kelly Cassidy, repeals the current law dictating abortion policies in the prairie state and replaces it with policies to “protect individual decision-making.”

Cassidy (D-Chicago) announced her intentions in filing this bill at a news event Tuesday in Chicago at the headquarters of the state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“As a woman, a mother and someone who has been a longtime supporter of full access to reproductive care, from contraception, abortion, pregnancy and postpartum care, it is time to modernize and update these laws to reflect the equality of women in Illinois,” she said.

Meanwhile, a Republican state lawmaker has proposed legislation to impose new restrictions on access to late-term abortions.

Rep. Patrick Windhorst, a freshman from Metropolis and a former Massac County state’s attorney, proposed to outlaw the procedure in Illinois once the fetus becomes viable, except when a woman’s life or “major bodily function” is threatened.

“This bill is an effort to protect the life of an unborn child after the point when they can survive outside the womb, when basically you’re just talking about an issue of location — when the child is deemed protected by the law or not,” he said Wednesday, Feb. 13. “Now, obviously there’s going to be times when there may be a serious physical health reason that would justify the procedure, and that’s why that exception is included in the law.”

According to his measure, a “medical emergency” and “major bodily function” includes normal function of the immune, digestive, neurological, respiratory and circulatory systems, among others.

His bill does not provide an exception for protecting the mental health of the mother.

Cassidy’s proposal follows a pledge Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker made to “make Illinois the most progressive state in the nation for access to reproductive health care,” his spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in an email.

Under the proposed legislation, private health insurance companies operating in Illinois would need to cover abortion procedures without implementing “any restrictions or delays on the coverage.”

This would expand a law signed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner, which allowed tax dollars to be spent on abortion procedures through Illinois’ Medicaid and and state employee health insurance programs.

Soon after passage, that legislation was challenged in court by attorneys with the Thomas More Society. It filed documents with the State Supreme Court in December 2018 asking the justices to take up the case.

Cassidy’s measure additionally specifies that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights.” It mandates that the state cannot infringe upon the expanded rights this legislation grants women, and creates an avenue for legal action.

Her legislation also repeals the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act and the Abortion Performance Refusal Act, which specifies that a medical professional who declines to recommend or perform an abortion procedure cannot be held liable for damages.

This initiative is one of two Democrats are pushing this legislative session to expand reproductive rights, they said at Tuesday’s news event. The other is Senate Bill 1594, a measure proposed by Sen. Elgie Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago), to repeal the Parental Notification of Abortion Act. It requires a minor to consult with her parent or guardian before terminating a pregnancy.

Cassidy’s legislation is House Bill 2495. It is sponsored by about 40 other Democrats.

Rebecca Anzel can be reached at ranzel@capitolnewsillinois.com

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