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Editorial: Illinois is shoring up abortion rights, as Missouri seeks to eviscerate them

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Illinois state Capitol

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Even as Missouri prepares to turn back the clock on abortion rights the moment the Supreme Court allows it, the Illinois House recently passed legislation shoring up the already-robust abortion-rights protections there. With the measures, passed by the Democratic House majority over unified Republican opposition, Illinois would offer safe haven for women who might soon find themselves to be persecuted second-class citizens across red-state America.

It’s probably encouraging to women nervous about their dwindling rights to control their own bodies that Illinois is proactively seeking to protect them — but distressing that such shelter may soon be necessary for the women of Missouri and elsewhere.

The conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has already weakened Roe v. Wade by upholding a constitutionally indefensible Texas law that invites anyone to profitably sue private citizens who aid in abortions that the state has deemed illegal. Other red states are maneuvering for the full overturn of Roe.

At the same time, Illinois and other Democratic-controlled states are maneuvering to offer abortion-rights protections.

Illinois already has strong laws in place, including protections for doctors who perform abortions. But under normal medical licensing practices, a doctor who is licensed to practice in Illinois and other states, and who is disciplined in one of those other states, could face automatic reciprocal punishment in Illinois. The passage last week of Illinois House Bill 1464 would specify that if a doctor is disciplined in another state purely for providing abortion services, the doctor’s Illinois license would be protected.

The measure is a recognition that Illinois’ neighbors — most notably Missouri — will be as draconian as possible about restricting abortion rights the moment the Supreme Court allows it. That extremism was vividly displayed in a dystopian Missouri bill this session that sought to prevent Missouri citizens from seeking abortions even outside of Missouri, threatening legal action against other states’ citizens who help them.

Thankfully, that plainly unconstitutional idea was a bridge too far even for Missouri’s ruling Republicans, who effectively blocked the legislation following withering national criticism. But that bill was one of many still pending in both the Missouri Legislature and in the court system that effectively seek to deny a woman control over her own body virtually from the moment of conception, or shortly after.

The Illinois House also has passed three non-binding but significant resolutions specifying the state’s support for abortion rights — significant as a recognition that such support can no longer be counted upon in many other states.

This could well be America after Roe: state borders becoming a kind of Iron Curtain, behind which women will have to surrender their rights to bodily privacy. As long as Missourians keep sending ideological extremists to Jefferson City, Missouri will be on the wrong side of that wall.

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