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Illinois bill forcing pro-life pregnancy care centers to promote abortion heads to governor’s desk

ADF letter to governor explains bill violates federal law

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A bill that has passed both houses of the Illinois Legislature and that will likely be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature would violate federal law and therefore place federal funding, including Medicaid reimbursements, in jeopardy, according to a letter Alliance Defending Freedom sent to Rauner on Friday on behalf of numerous pro-life physicians, pregnancy care centers, and pregnancy care center network organizations. ADF warned legislators about the problems with the bill last year.

The bill, SB 1564, forces medical facilities and physicians who conscientiously object to involvement in abortions to adopt policies that provide women who ask for abortions with a list of providers “they reasonably believe may offer” them. Two federal laws, known as the Coats-Snowe amendment and the Hyde-Weldon amendment, together prohibit states that receive federal funding from forcing pro-life physicians and entities to refer women for abortion or to make arrangements for their referral. Illinois law also prohibits government from placing burdens on religious conscience without a compelling interest for doing so.

“No state can rob women of the right to choose a pro-life doctor by forcing pro-life physicians and entities to make or arrange abortion referrals. That’s what federal law clearly states,” said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “The governor would be on firm legal ground to veto this bill because of its collision with federal law and the U.S. Constitution—and because the courts have invalidated similar measures in other states.”

“Alliance Defending Freedom has represented multiple pro-life pregnancy help organizations in federal lawsuits in which we have obtained court orders against laws that attempted to force the pregnancy centers to recite government’s messages,” the ADF letter explains. “Several of the cases specifically struck down the requirement that pregnancy centers tell women certain things about abortion or birth control, or that they give the women information about alternative service providers. See Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery County…. Alliance Defending Freedom is ready and willing to represent Illinois pro-life pregnancy centers if SB 1564 becomes law.”

The federal Coats-Snowe amendment declares that “any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance, may not subject any health care entity to discrimination on the basis that” it (1) “refuses to…provide referrals for…abortions,” or it (2) “refuses to make arrangements for any of the activities specified in paragraph (1).”

In addition to protecting “entities,” the Coats-Snowe amendment protects “individual physician[s].” The federal funding that violating the Coats-Snowe amendment jeopardizes “includes” but is not limited to “governmental payments provided as reimbursement for carrying out health-related activities.” Separately, the federal Hyde-Weldon amendment prohibits states that receive certain federal funding from requiring physicians or health care entities to refer for abortions.

  • Pronunciation guide: Bowman (BOH’-min)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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Matt Bowman
Matt Bowman
Senior Counsel, Director of Regulatory Practice
Matt Bowman serves as senior counsel and director of regulatory practice at Alliance Defending Freedom, where he focuses on the impact of administrative law on religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and family.