CHICAGO — A statewide poll taken for the American Civil Liberties Union says that only one-third of likely Illinois general election voters would support a bill requiring a woman seeking an abortion to undergo and view the results of an ultrasound examination before receiving an abortion.
But such a bill is not currently before Illinois lawmakers.
Last week the House Agriculture Committee instead approved 9-2 a bill (HB 4085) requiring that any physician performing an abortion first would have to offer the pregnant woman the opportunity to view an ultrasound of the unborn baby. The woman would have to sign a form "attesting to her informed decision to accept or decline the offer," according to the wording of the bill.
The impact is almost the same, an ACLU spokesman said.
"The practical result, when you offer someone the opportunity to undergo and look at the ultrasound, is two-fold," said Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU. "First of all, the only way you get out of it is signing your name to a piece of paper that goes to the Illinois Department of Public Health, meaning that you are creating a public record that you've had an abortion."
Second, he said, "for many, many people when your doctor says he's offering you this, many people don't push back. They just said, 'Oh, my doctor said this.' And the doctor is only offering it because a politician has told them they have to. They're not doing it because it's medically necessary."
But at last week's House hearing on the bill, state Rep. Joseph Lyons, D-Chicago, called the measure "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?"
Lyons is the sponsor of the bill that also has 19 cosponsors.
In the statewide survey taken Feb. 20-22 (the House hearing on the ultrasound bill occurred on Feb. 21), poll-takers asked: "Now, would you support or oppose a proposed law that would require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo and view an ultrasound examination prior to receiving an abortion?"
Statewide 55 percent of the 524 people interviewed by Fako & Associates of Lisle said they would oppose such a law, 33 percent would support and 13 percent were undecided.
Opposition to the measure was strongest in suburban Cook County (61 percent opposed) and Chicago (60 percent opposed). But even in the more Republican collar counties, opponents outnumbered supporters, 53 percent to 32 percent.
Only in southern Illinois — defined generally as the area south of a line from Danville to Champaign-Urbana and to Springfield — was there support for the legislation. There, 50 percent favored the bill, 39 percent were opposed and 11 percent were undecided.
The counties defined as southern Illinois: Alexander, Bond, Calhoun, Christian, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Franklin, Gallatin, Greene, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jersey, Johnson, Lawrence, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Marion, Massac, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Perry, Pike, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Richland, Saline, Scott, Shelby, St. Clair, Union, Wabash, Warren, Washington, Wayne, White and Williamson.
Poll-takers also asked if respondents felt it was appropriate for the bill to be considered by the House Agriculture Committee. In every area of the state, the respondents said that was inappropriate, ranging from 78 percent in both southern Illinois and suburban Cook County to 63 percent in Chicago.
Various pieces of ultrasound-related bills "are happening everywhere," Yohnka said.
"That's the one piece of this that one cannot overstate," he said. "This is a national strategy of anti-abortion forces to limit the access that women have to a safe and legal procedure. There's no mystery here."
The ultrasound legislation is now before the full House. Yohnka said he did not want to assume that it would be defeated in a floor vote.
"I think it's dangerous that this even got out of committee. It creates a sense that this is appropriate public policy. It creates a certain sense of urgency," he said. "It's why we put this poll in the field. We knew that once it was sent to the Ag Committee, it stood a very good chance of getting out."
Yohkna declined to say how much the poll cost the ACLU, although he called it "a significant sum. But we thought in this year when you have all these measures happening all across the country, it was appropriate to put together something that really reflected the views of the voters of Illinois."