SPRINGFIELD, Ill. • An Illinois House committee that normally deals with farm and wildlife issues passed two controversial anti-abortion measures this afternoon, before a packed room that included opponents wearing t-shirts that stated: "Women are NOT livestock."
One of the bills (HB4117) would impose the same kinds of building standards and other rules on abortion facilities that other types of medical facilities face.
Proponents—including an official of Illinois Right to Life who testified for the bill—presented it as a matter of protecting women's health. Opponents said it was a thinly veiled attempt to put the abortion facilities out of business, and that the rules in question don't make sense at such facilities.
The second bill (HB4085) would require abortion facilities to take ultrasound imagery of the fetus and then ask the woman if she wanted to see it prior to the abortion. She could decline the offer in writing.
Proponents said women who see the ultrasound imagery might change their minds about the abortion. "This is a pro-choice bill," insisted the sponsor, Rep. Joseph Lyons, D-Chicago, who is anti-abortion. "The woman has the choice to say `no'" to the offer of seeing the ultrasound.
Opponents said the requirement to create the ultrasound and require the woman to assertively decline to see it would be coercive and potentially traumatic. One doctor testifying against the bill noted it could mean subjecting rape victims to vaginal ultrasound probes that aren't medically necessary.
That particular committee often gets assigned legislation dealing not just with hog farms and irrigation issues, but also gun-owner rights, abortion restrictions and other hot-button conservative causes that have nothing to do with the stated purpose of the committee. Sponsors of those bills often request that committee because it's made up primarily of lawmakers from rural agricultural regions of the state, which also tend to be among the more socially conservative members of the Legislature.
In the past, those odd bill assignments have generally been accepted as a quirk of the process in Springfield, but opponents of the two bills that passed today have been vocal in their criticism. "We're not talking about abortions for cows and pigs, right? We're talking about women?" asked Rep. Deborah Mell, D-Chicago, one of the two committee members who voted against both bills.
Both bills now go to the full House floor, where similar measures have been defeated in recent years.