SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — An Illinois bill would keep pregnancy centers that are anti-abortion from using deceptive practices to dissuade women from seeking the procedure.
Passed by the House last week, the bill would empower the state’s attorney general to investigate claims that the facility had engaged in fraud, deception or false pretense, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“This is literally giving and clarifying the authority of the attorney general in order to prosecute these cases where people are using misleading and deceptive practices in order to take women away from being able to actually get the abortion care that they are looking for,” State Senator Celina Villanueva said.
Methods of the deceptive practices can include “falsely advertising services, period, on their websites. Being very vague in terms of what they do or do not provide. Listing abortions so that it comes up when people who are searching for abortion care,” according to Alicia Hurtado, a helpline case manager and movement building manager for the Chicago Abortion Fund.
The bill would amend the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, which currently does not include health care professionals. It would apply the existing language to the abortion industry.
Opponents of the bill said that it violates the First Amendment, giving too much leeway to the attorney general’s office on which facilities can be penalized, as well as discriminating against certain organizations.
“The language in this bill is extremely vague and unclear,” said Assistant Republican House Leader Jackie Haas. “Organizations are left to question their methods of operation and it’s very ambiguous and seemingly open to interpretation by only the attorney general.”
Susan Barrett, executive director of Aid for Women, said that she is not aware of the sort of deceptive practices that were described in testimony to legislators.
“I mean sometimes people make mistakes but we’re very clear even on the phone about who we are and what services we provide,” Barrett said.
Illinois is one of the few states in the Midwest that strongly protects reproductive rights. Around 30,000-40,000 patients have crossed into Illinois after the fall of Roe v. Wade to seek abortion care.
The bill is now being sent to Governor JB Pritzker, who has already indicated his support.