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Can't happen here? Illinois reacts to Arkansas' restrictive abortion ban

by Ashley Gork
March 07, 2013


Abortion rights resurfaced as a hot controversy in Illinois on Wednesday, when Arkansas adopted the country’s most restrictive ban on abortion, prohibiting the termination of a pregnancy at 12 weeks.

Strong opinions erupted on both Abortion rights resurfaced as a hot controversy in Illinois on Wednesday, when Arkansas adopted the country’s most restrictive ban on abortion, prohibiting the termination of a pregnancy at 12 weeks.

Strong opinions erupted on both sides as the country witnessed the biggest legal challenge yet to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Both sides agree on one point - it would be very difficult for a similar restrictive ban to pass in Illinois. Last year, pro-life advocates tried to pass a law that would allow a woman to see an ultrasound of her child at the time of her abortion, but even this bill did not pass.

Brigid Leahy, director of legislative affairs at Planned Parenthood in Illinois, said that restrictive law is a big step backwards for the women of Arkansas. “Not only is it unconstitutional, but it is unhealthy for the women,” she added.

“We know that most abortions are performed in the first trimester, but there are some women who for a variety of reasons need to wait to make their decision,” Leahy said, citing both financial and health concerns as possible motivations.

In Arkansas, abortions can be performed up to 20 weeks in instances of incest or rape and to save the mother’s life. However the health of the woman is not noted as one of the exceptions, Leahy pointed out.

“Anything that restricts abortion is always good news for us,” said Ann Scheidler, the vice president of the Pro-Life Action League based in Chicago. She said that she has appreciated the increased awareness brought forth by the new legislation as well as the attention afforded to “what’s in the womb.”

“What really changes from 11 weeks and 6 days and 12 weeks?” she asked, “Nothing. People just start to get uncomfortable.”

The new Arkansas law sets the limit at 12 weeks of pregnancy, which is when a fetal heartbeat can be detected in an ultrasound. The Arkansas legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of the “Human Heartbeat Protection Act.”

Scheidler believes that life ultimately begins at conception. “It’s a human life and we have done gymnastics in order to justify the taking of that life,” she said.

Leahy believes that “Illinois women have been very fortunate.” However, she is concerned that a new legislative bill may be on the horizon that will shorten the time allotted for an abortion to 18 or 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is currently set at 24 weeks.

“It’s disturbing that they keep pushing the time period earlier and earlier and cutting out options for more and more women” she said.

Illinois is one of the more liberal states when it comes to abortion rights with no major restrictions on access. The state does not require waiting periods, lectures or parental consent for those under 18 years of age. However, 92 percent of Illinois counties are without an abortion provider.

As a result of Roe v. Wade, a woman has a right to an abortion until the point of viability, which is usually between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. After that time, the state has a vested interest in the child's right to life. Legal fights against the new law are expected based on constitutional grounds.sides as the country witnessed the biggest legal challenge yet to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Both sides agree on one point - it would be very difficult for a similar restrictive ban to pass in Illinois. Last year, pro-life advocates tried to pass a law that would allow a woman to see an ultrasound of her child at the time of her abortion, but even this bill did not pass.

Brigid Leahy, director of legislative affairs at Planned Parenthood in Illinois, said that restrictive law is a big step backwards for the women of Arkansas. “Not only is it unconstitutional, but it is unhealthy for the women,” she added.

“We know that most abortions are performed in the first trimester, but there are some women who for a variety of reasons need to wait to make their decision,” Leahy said, citing both financial and health concerns as possible motivations.

In Arkansas, abortions can be performed up to 20 weeks in instances of incest or rape and to save the mother’s life. However the health of the woman is not noted as one of the exceptions, Leahy pointed out.

“Anything that restricts abortion is always good news for us,” said Ann Scheidler, the vice president of the Pro-Life Action League based in Chicago. She said that she has appreciated the increased awareness brought forth by the new legislation as well as the attention afforded to “what’s in the womb.”

“What really changes from 11 weeks and 6 days and 12 weeks?” she asked, “Nothing. People just start to get uncomfortable.”

The new Arkansas law sets the limit at 12 weeks of pregnancy, which is when a fetal heartbeat can be detected in an ultrasound. The Arkansas legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of the “Human Heartbeat Protection Act.”

Scheidler believes that life ultimately begins at conception. “It’s a human life and we have done gymnastics in order to justify the taking of that life,” she said.

Leahy believes that “Illinois women have been very fortunate.” However, she is concerned that a new legislative bill may be on the horizon that will shorten the time allotted for an abortion to 18 or 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is currently set at 24 weeks.

“It’s disturbing that they keep pushing the time period earlier and earlier and cutting out options for more and more women” she said.

Illinois is one of the more liberal states when it comes to abortion rights with no major restrictions on access. The state does not require waiting periods, lectures or parental consent for those under 18 years of age. However, 92 percent of Illinois counties are without an abortion provider.

As a result of Roe v. Wade, a woman has a right to an abortion until the point of viability, which is usually between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. After that time, the state has a vested interest in the child's right to life. Legal fights against the new law are expected based on constitutional grounds.