This information is updated as of 2-16-23 and was taken from an advisory released by the Catholic Conference of Illinois and Illinois Right to Life Action.
What you need to know about SB 1909 and HB 2463:
Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act
- SB 1909 claims to protect the ability of individuals “to make autonomous, informed and evidence-based decisions” about having an abortion.
- However, it is another attempt to force pregnancy help centers to cooperate in some way with abortions or referrals for abortions. Ultimately, this bill would most likely lead to the closing of pregnancy help centers entirely.
- Pregnancy centers offer important services to women. In fact, a recently published study found that pregnancy centers are more likely than abortion facilities to provide same-day appointments and free pregnancy testing. (“Early pregnancy confirmation availability at crisis pregnancy centers and abortion facilities in the United States,” Contraception, January 2023)
- The bill targets the services provided by pregnancy help centers and sidewalk counselors by making them civilly liable for engaging in “deceptive acts or practice” for any concealment, suppression, or omission of a “material fact.”
- The language of the bill is overly broad. There is no guidance as to what is a “material fact.” This could lead to an unlimited interpretation that would force pregnancy help centers to inform a pregnant woman about how to obtain an abortion. Doing so imposes government-compelled speech and suppresses conscience rights and religious freedom, all of which are in violation of the Constitution.
- Under SB 1909, the Illinois Attorney General would have the authority to initiate acomplaint against a pregnancy help center if it is “in the public interest.” In other words, an investigation does not necessarily need to be based on any specific complaint.
- The Attorney General would also be able to request a court order to “impound” all the records of the center while the investigation continues. An investigation could go on endlessly, forcing the center to eventually close.
- If a center is found to be in violation of the Act, penalties include injunctions and civil penalties up to $50,000.
- Additionally, the Act creates a private right of action, in which any “aggrieved party” can sue a center for a violation of the Act. However, an “aggrieved party” does not need to have been a client or patient of the center.
- Furthermore, the plaintiff in this private lawsuit can recover their attorney fees, but the bill does not provide for pregnancy help centers to recover such fees when a lawsuit is brought in bad faith.