Illinois won't target pro-life pregnancy centers after being accused of weaponizing government

A woman looks at a pregancy test
A woman looks at a pregancy test | Getty Images

Illinois will not enforce a law that targets the practices of pro-life pregnancy resource centers and seeks to prevent these organizations from engaging in what the state claims are "deceptive practices." 

Attorney General Kwame Raoul agreed on Monday to a court order imposing a permanent injunction against Senate Bill 1909. Signed into law by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker in July, the legislation claims that "limited service" pregnancy centers use "fraudulent" and "misleading" methods to dissuade women from having an abortion. 

Under the law, the state attorney general could enforce penalties — including a civil penalty of $50,000 — if pregnancy centers engage in specific actions that the bill declares unlawful, which includes "advertising, soliciting, or otherwise offering pregnancy-related services."

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The bill contends that its goal is to outlaw "deceptive practices," claiming that pregnancy centers lie to clients through misleading advertising and misinformation about abortion. 

The Thomas More Society, a nonprofit law firm, sued the state on behalf of the pregnancy center umbrella group National Institute of Family.

On Monday, the legal group filed a joint motion to enter an agreed order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, signed by U.S. District Judge Iain D. Johnston.

The joint motion imposed a permanent injunction on the state attorney general, prohibiting Illinois from enforcing the law.

In August, Johnston entered a preliminary injunction against SB 1909, temporarily preventing law enforcement.

In a Tuesday statement provided to The Christian Post, NIFLA President Thomas Glessner stated that the pro-life organization is "elated" that SB 1909, a law he decried as "unconstitutional," would not go into effect. 

"SB 1909 was an absolute weaponization of government that unfairly and unconstitutionally targeted pregnancy centers simply because they refused to refer for or perform abortions," Glessner said. 

"Let this be a stern example of what awaits them when attempting to pass and enforce similar laws," he continued. "Look to Illinois and save taxpayer dollars for actually helping their communities instead of going after organizations that help women and their families."

Peter Breen, executive vice president and the head of litigation for the Thomas More Society, criticized the bill for regulating the speech of pro-life organizations while exempting abortion facilities from such regulations. The pro-life attorney decried SB 1909 as "unconstitutional," praising the court's decision. 

"This law is just one of a number of illegal new laws enacted across the country that restrict pro-life speech — we hope this permanent injunction, with full attorney's fees, serves as a warning to other states that would seek to follow Illinois and try to silence pro-life viewpoints," Breen said. 

In a Monday statement, Raoul said the outcome of this case would not impact his efforts to ensure women have access to abortion and other reproductive health services.

"Patients in Illinois can be assured that as states continue to enact draconian restrictions on access to reproductive health care, I will not waver in my efforts to ensure that Illinois remains an oasis of reproductive freedom in the middle of our nation," he said.

As the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute highlighted in a January fact sheet, there are more than 2,700 pregnancy resource centers in all 50 states. The fact sheet noted that, in 2019, pregnancy centers served roughly 2 million women, providing supportive services valued at nearly $270 million at little to no cost. The institute reports that in 2022, pregnancy centers offeredan estimated total service value of at least $358 million annually

These services included medical care and referrals, counseling and parenting education classes, and baby supplies, such as diapers, clothes and other material resources. The report also notes that nearly 15,000 staff, almost 54,000 volunteers and over 10,000 licensed medical professionals provide clients with these services. 

According to a June CLI analysis, since 2016, pregnancy centers have prevented more than 800,000 abortions by providing women with community-based support.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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