SB 1564 amended the Healthcare Right of Conscience Act. It passed both Houses of the Illinois Legislature in 2016, and was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner. The law required pro-life doctors and medical staff to provide referrals to abortion clinics, and to discuss abortion as a treatment option.
Every pro-life pro-family group in Illinois opposed this pernicious law. In fact, a congressional review stated, that SB 1564 violated federal law, which would jeopardize billions of dollars in federal funding to Illinois. This bill not only violates federal law, but has been described by many, as a religious freedom issue.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys, representing an Illinois doctor and two pregnancy care centers, filed suit in state court against Governor Bruce Rauner. They advised the governor, that SB 1564 would violate federal law, and therefore place federal funding, including Medicaid reimbursements, in jeopardy.
In the lawsuit, it was specifically stated, that Illinois law prohibits the government from placing burdens on religious conscience without a compelling reason for doing so. The Illinois Constitution protects “liberty of conscience”, saying, “That no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege or capacity, on account of his religious opinion.” The Illinois Constitution protects free speech, which includes the right not to be compelled by the government, to speak a message contrary to one’s own conscience.
On December 20, 2016, a Rockford, Illinois judge issued a preliminary injunction that protected the Pregnancy Care Center of Rockford, Dr. Anthony Caruso, and A Bella Baby OBGYN, and Aid for Women from SB 1564. The injunction, temporarily protects the above (the Plaintiffs) from the requirements of SB 1564, until a final decision is reached in the lawsuit. Important to Note: The injunction only protects the Plaintiffs (The Pregnancy Center of Rockford, Dr. Anthony Caruso and A Bella Baby OBGYN and Aid for Women). Their attorneys then made a request to the State of Illinois, to forgo the enforcement of SB 1564 against all pro-life centers, until the lawsuit was complete.
A Federal District Court has granted a preliminary injunction in a right-of-conscience case. The religious liberty defending law firm of Mauck & Baker, LLC reported a Federal District Court granted the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) a preliminary injunction against SB 1564. The injunction prohibits the state from enforcing the law against healthcare facilities or physicians, who have a conscience objection to performing abortions or making abortion referrals. The federal court wrote, “It is clear, that the amended act targets the free-speech rights of people who have a specific viewpoint.” This means, that the federal court preliminary injunction, broadly protects all “Healthcare facilities, healthcare personnel, or physicians, who object to providing information about healthcare providers who may offer abortion, or who object to describing abortion as a beneficial treatment option.”
The injunction means, that all pregnancy care centers can continue their life-saving work, without fear of prosecution, for the time being. The lawsuit against Governor Bruce Rauner and the State of Illinois, will continue to work its way through the Illinois court system.
The good news is, that pregnancy care centers can continue. The court case will be long and difficult. And those Plaintiffs should be supported by the entire pro-life, pro-family community. It would be helpful for those reading this article, to know how their lawmaker voted.
How Your Legislator Voted on the Initial Bill of SB 1564
Illinois State Senate
- Terry Link ( D ) 30th Yes
- Dan Duffy ( R ) 26th No
- Melinda Bush ( D ) 31st Yes
Illinois State Representatives
- Ed Sullivan ( R ) 51st No
- David McSweeney ( R ) 52nd No
- Scott Drury ( D ) 58th Yes
- Carol Sente ( D ) 59th Yes
- Rita Mayfield ( D ) 60th Yes
- Sheri Jesiel ( R ) 61st No