Yesterday, the House Agriculture and Conversation Committee passed both the ultrasound mandate (HB 4085) and the bill amending the ASTC Act to require any clinic or doctor’s office where 50 abortions per year occur to become the functional equivalent of a small hospital (HB 4117). Both bills now move to the House floor for a vote.
After approving a bill about boating and the spread of zebra mussels, the Agriculture Committee turned to discussion of the proposed amendment to the ASTC Act, HB 4117 (now with House Amendment 1).
Instead of denying the charge that this bill plays politics with women’s health, Rep. Sacia, one of the Committee members, defended it by claiming President Obama was doing the same by requiring health insurance plans to cover contraception. There was also substantive discussion of the bill’s requirements.
Because the Illinois Department of Public Health slipped in opposition to the bill, the Committee Chairperson asked David Carvalho from IDPH to describe the Department’s opposition. He explained that the bill inappropriately upends the current regulatory scheme, which is tailored to the medical procedures being performed in the particular facilities, and for example, does not require a facility in which a physician is performing a first trimester abortion without anesthesia to comply with extensive regulations related to anesthesia. He also explained that the bill targets abortion care, but that complicated surgical procedures such as knee surgery and liposuction are currently performed in doctor’s offices that do not meet the requirements of the ASTC Act.
Colleen Connell from the ACLU testified that the current regulations were adopted after a federal court declared the ASTC Act unconstitutional for singling out abortion for excessive and burdensome regulation. Nevertheless, the bill’s sponsor admitted that HB 4117 singles out facilities where abortions are being performed. The Committee approved the bill 12-2.
The sponsor of the ultrasound mandate, Rep. Lyons, acknowledged in his remarks to the committee that the purpose of HB 4085 was to decrease the number of abortions. Despite its intrusive and traumatizing requirements for patients who have already made the fully-informed choice to terminate their pregnancies, Rep. Lyons explained to the committee members that he believed the bill was justified if it saved “one life.”
Dr. Allison Cowett testified in opposition to the bill, clarifying that HB 4085 would burden all women seeking an abortion – without exception – by requiring them either to undergo and view an ultrasound or attest in writing that they had refused to do so, and explaining that the requirement is not medically necessary and interferes with the relationship of trust between a patient and her doctor. Dr. Cowett also spoke of her personal experience with two patients – one who wanted to view an ultrasound before her pregnancy was terminated and one who adamantly did not – to try to help the committee understand the why the mandate could be traumatic for some patients. Despite Dr. Cowett’s powerful testimony, the Agriculture Committee approved the bill 11-2.
It was disappointing that the Committee seemingly ignored the overwhelming opposition to both bills from those who submitted slips, the fact-based and thoughtful testimony from the experts, and the pointed questioning from temporary Committee members Reps. Jakobsson and Mell. But this was only the first battle, and this result was not unexpected. The fight to kill these bills now moves to the House floor. Take action: http://action.aclu.org/notlivestock
Many of you commented on a post I did regarding this last year. It is the age of attacking women and demeaning them. If you think this will end anytime soon, you are wrong. We were outraged last year and here we are back again. The only way this will end is with your efforts and your commitment to women and gender equality, support women's reproductive rights.