State Law Compels Pro-Lifers to Counsel About Abortions and Provide Referrals Against Their Faith
The Thomas More Society filed suit on March 16, 2017 in federal court on behalf of a pro-life physician and two pro-life pregnancy resource centers challenging Public Act 99-690, the controversial law that forces physicians and other health care providers to provide information about the so-called benefits of abortion and to give referrals to abortion providers upon request. The suit advances claims under the federal constitution as well as a number of federal laws, including the Hyde-Weldon Amendment.
The plaintiffs are Dr. Ronald L. Schroeder, 1st Way Life Center, and Pregnancy Aid South Suburbs (PASS). Dr. Schroeder provides pro bono medical care to women in crisis pregnancy situations. PASS and 1st Way are pregnancy resource centers that help women choose life for their babies by providing emotional and material assistance to women and families. All the plaintiffs are pro-life Christians whose efforts are inspired by their religious faith, but their faith also precludes them from counseling about the supposed benefits of abortion or referring clients to abortion providers. P.A. 99-690 requires them to do just that and exposes them to discrimination, sanctions, and liability if they do not comply.
Thomas Olp, attorney for the Thomas More Society, observed, “Our clients have spent decades helping women choose life for their unborn babies. This law targets pro-life physicians and pregnancy centers, which do not refer for abortion, and whose pro-life mission is to advise clients of abortion alternatives such as parenting and adoption. But the law forces center personnel to discuss supposed ‘benefits’ of abortion with clients and, upon request, to refer them to an abortion provider or give information about such providers. This law only targets those who, like our clients, conscientiously oppose discussing so-called benefits of abortion and referring for abortion, and leaves non-conscientious objectors unregulated. Our clients view this as a nefarious attempt by the abortion industry to protect its abortion business by silencing pro-life physicians and pregnancy resource centers, that, without a profit motive, try to convince pregnant women to choose life for their unborn child, not abortion.”
Olp continued by noting that P.A. 99-690 attempts to “circumvent federal laws designed to protect pro-life physicians and other health care providers.” As he put it, “P.A. 99-690 frustrates the purpose of the Hyde-Weldon Amendment and similar federal laws prohibiting federal funds from going to states that permit discrimination against health care workers who refuse, because of conscience, to be involved in abortion referrals.” He expressed hope that the Trump Administration would issue guidance requiring the State of Illinois to respect the conscience rights of the plaintiffs and other pro-life health care providers in this area of abortion referral and discussion of abortion.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois against Governor Rauner and his Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, Bryan Schneider. It asserts several constitutional claims, including compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment. Federal officials, including Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, were joined given their interest in ensuring that federal monies are spent as required by federal law; but the suit seeks no relief against them at this time. The suit seeks a preliminary injunction against enforcement of P.A. 99-690 pending final resolution of the litigation.
A link to the Complaint can be found here