House committee passes anti-abortion bills
SPRINGFIELD — Two anti-abortion bills sailed through a friendly House committee Tuesday although their fate in the full House is less assured.
One bill (HB 4085) would require that any physician in Illinois performing an abortion first offer the pregnant woman the opportunity to view an ultrasound of the unborn baby. The legislation cleared the House Agriculture Committee, 11-2. The two "no" votes came from Reps. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, and Deborah Mell, D-Chicago. Among those voting "yes" were Reps. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, and Jason Barickman, R-Champaign.
Tuesday's hearing included an emotional exchange between Jakobsson and the bill's sponsor, Rep. Joseph Lyons, D-Chicago.
"(Y)ou are hoping that after a woman sees this, you are hoping that she is discouraged from having an abortion?" Jakobsson asked.
"I think it gives the human face to the procedure, when they see the heartbeat and see that it's not just a procedure like getting your tonsils taken out or having an appendectomy," Lyons said. "It's the idea of trying to put a face, a touch, on the whole process. And if it saves one life, Naomi, is that a bad thing? If it saves one life, would that be a bad idea?"
Jakobsson responded, "I think what you are getting at is trying to discourage the woman from trying to protect her life."
Lyons called the legislation "a pro-choice bill. A woman has the choice to say no. Most women will. This doesn't force this on any woman. It just says, would you like to see the ultrasound?"
Dr. Allison Cowett, director of gynecologic ultrasound at the University of Illinois at Chicago, condemned the legislation as a "measure to destroy the relationship between a doctor and her patient."
She said the proposal could be traumatic for some of her patients, particularly those who have been victims of incest or rape. She cited a rape victim who turned away when Cowett displayed the fetus on an ultrasound.
"How can we legislate traumatizing a patient in that way?" she said. "How insulting to a woman who has been brutally raped and, to add insult to injury, you force her to sign a paper that says she refuses to view an ultrasound."
The second bill, HB 4117, which was approved by the committee 12-2, would provide that any ambulatory surgical treatment center that provides 50 or more abortions a year would have to meet more rigorous health standards.
But Colleen Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois, said the legislation "could very well force many of the remaining women's health care facilities to close," including physician's offices.
"This is imposing regulations that federal courts previously had found to be unconstitutional," she said. "This is not really about women's health care. It is really an unfortunate effort to impose unnecessary regulations for an ideological reason."
Jakobsson said the bills face uncertain futures, after clearing a committee made up primarily of conservative downstate Republicans and Democrats.
The bills "weren't successful before, and I'm hopeful that they still won't be successful this spring," she said.