When a draft ruling showing that the Supreme Court is going to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked last week, Americans were forced to confront the reality of a near future without federal abortion rights. While the situation is most dire for people living in Southern and upper-Midwestern states, where many stand to lose abortion access not only in the state of their residence but also in neighboring states, Illinois will likely remain an island of choice and women’s rights in the middle of the country.
The liberal state that brought us President Barack Obama is set to become an island of choice and hope amidst a sea of abortion bans. The Guttmacher Institute, which collects data on reproductive health, predicts that 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion completely once the Supreme Court ruling is officially handed down. These include every single state that shares a border with Illinois.
Becoming the sole point of access for so many millions of people, Guttmacher estimates that the demand for abortions in the state of Illinois will increase by 8,651% if a full ban on abortions goes into effect throughout the Midwest.
Illinois Govenor J.B. Pritzker, who in 2019 signed off on a law that guarantees abortion access in Illinois even if Roe is overturned, and who is currently running for re-election, confirmed his commitment to choice in a rally last Friday in Chicago, saying, “I’m proud that Illinois is an island for reproductive freedom in the Midwest, but our shores remain open for any person left marooned by these extremist politicians.”
Govenor Pritzker in December signed the repeal of a shameful law that had required Illinois residents ages 17 and under to notify their parents that they were going to get an abortion before the procedure could take place. Blocked in legal battles for years, the 1995 law hadn’t gone into effect until 2013. Under the repeal, it will remain in place until June — just in time for the likely official overturning of Roe by the Supreme Court.
In preparation for the influx of new patients from neighboring states, some Wisconsin doctors are considering setting up a clinic just over the border in Illinois.
Medication abortion is another possible solution for people seeking abortion care. A two-dose pill regimen approved for use until up to 10 weeks of pregnancy — when the majority of abortions occur — allows both easy access and privacy to patients. Under guidelines drafted in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, medication abortion, which accounted for more than half of all abortions in 2020, is currently available via telehealth, meaning patients never need to set foot in a clinic.
Unfortunately, conservatives are already hard at work to strip access to medication abortions as well. Texas, in line with its 6-week abortion ban, prohibits medication abortions starting at 7 weeks. Mailing the pills to patients is currently banned in Texas, Arkansas, and Arizona. Another 19 states have requirements that a healthcare provider be physically present when a patient takes their first dose, and 16 other state legislatures have introduced bans or restrictions on medication abortion.
Advocates for reproductive justice have a long road ahead, and while millions will continue to fight for federal protections, it seems clear that Illinois will be a safe haven for many women.