In the wake of a year that saw crisis pregnancy centers slandered, physically attacked, and even firebombed, the Illinois General Assembly has now passed a bill that specifically targets these volunteer, non-profit organizations for so-called “deceptive business practices” because they don’t offer “termination” services.
SB 1909, which passed the Illinois House on May 10, asserts that crisis pregnancy centers don’t provide “comprehensive reproductive health care” and thus intentionally deceive and defraud women in order to keep them from going to a clinic that does provide comprehensive reproductive health care, meaning abortion services.
The law makes many claims about crisis pregnancy centers, which it refers to as “limited services pregnancy centers.” It charges that “vulnerable” residents have “repeatedly been misled” by the centers, which allegedly claim to offer “comprehensive reproductive health care” but “aim to dissuade pregnant persons from considering abortion care through deceptive, fraudulent, and misleading information and practices, without any regard for a pregnant person’s concerns or circumstance.”
The idea for the bill came from Illinois Attorney General Kwame Roul, who stated after the passing of the bill:
“Patients report going to crisis pregnancy centers, sometimes even receiving exams and ultrasounds, thinking they were visiting a different clinic that offers the full range of reproductive care. This is an extreme violation of trust and patient privacy that should not occur in our state.”
State Sen. Celina Villanueva, D, who co-sponsored the legislation, released a statement, saying,
“We must ensure that women who are seeking reproductive health care are protected from deceptive and misleading practices. At a time when they are already vulnerable, they must have peace of mind that they won’t be taken advantage of. Health care — in all forms — should be safe and transparent.”
The bill never defines deceptive practices, and the only evidence provided is that crisis pregnancy centers claim that abortion causes cancer and infertility. Though the bill provides no examples of a crisis pregnancy center making such a claim, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists responded in an amicus brief, “Since 1957, at least 41 studies have shown a positive, statistically significant association between induced abortion and breast cancer,” meaning that if a center makes this claim it could be backed up by studies.
The bill’s definition of limited service pregnancy centers has led some to conclude its intent is to shut down centers that refuse to perform abortions. Limited service pregnancy centers are defined as a clinic that “does not directly provide abortions or provide or prescribe emergency contraception, or provide referrals for abortions or emergency contraception, and has no affiliation with any organization or provider who provides abortions or provides or prescribes emergency contraception and has a primary purpose to offer or provide pregnancy-related services to an individual.”
Pregnancy-related services refers to “medical service, or health counseling service, related to the prevention, preservation, or termination of pregnancy, including, but not limited to, contraception and contraceptive counseling, pregnancy testing, pregnancy diagnosis, pregnancy options counseling, limited obstetric ultrasound, obstetric ultrasound, obstetric sonogram, sexually transmitted infections testing, and prenatal care.”
The bill has faced a variety of criticisms. Oft-noted is that, though the bill’s supporters claim this so-called deception is pervasive, they have provided no evidence proving these claims. Illinois Right to Life Action noted this contradiction, saying that Rep. Terra Costa Howard, D, “is asked whether SB1909 is a response to an abundance of complaints received by the AG’s office. The Rep. struggles to answer the question. FOIA request revealed there have been zero complaints filed in 10 years.”
Rep. Bill Hauter, R, stated, “Honestly, this bill…it’s hard for me to understand why we need it, how it would be constitutional in any way. And the sponsor’s description of pregnancy care centers is nothing that I recognize.”
Rep. Adam Niemerg, R, called out the vagueness of the bill. “This is a very broad brush that you are painting with…and I think the people of Illinois deserve to know through examples what will be applicable and what won’t be applicable under this act…”
Let’s talk honestly about “deception,” starting with the euphemistic term “comprehensive reproductive health care.” This, of course, means abortion, the antithesis of “reproductive care.”
This bill specifically targets clinics that do not provide abortion and excludes any that do. Whenever the proponents of the bill criticize these clinics for not providing “comprehensive reproductive health care,” what they are saying is they do not provide abortion.
The text of the bill states that a “limited service pregnancy center” could offer services, related to the prevention, preservation, or termination of pregnancy, including, but not limited to, contraception and contraceptive counseling, pregnancy testing, pregnancy diagnosis, pregnancy options counseling, limited obstetric ultrasound, obstetric ultrasound, obstetric sonogram, sexually transmitted infections testing, and prenatal care, but if they don’t provide abortion, they are considered limited and potentially fraudulent. Yet a clinic, say Planned Parenthood, could offer only some of those services and abortion, and so they would not be subject to the fines.
In fact, Planned Parenthood doesn’t provide all of those “reproductive” services, but it has been shown to actively lie about providing them. Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, and Lori Lamerand, former CEO of Planned Parenthood, both said that their clinics offered prenatal care.
Yet an investigation by Live Action showed that almost no Planned Parenthood offered any type of prenatal care, with some Planned Parenthood staffers even admitting that the clinic’s name was “deceiving.” Planned Parenthood also only provides ultrasounds to determine the age of the baby for the purpose of aborting them.
Thus, it is Planned Parenthood — which profits from abortion, provides abortion procedures to the exclusion of almost all other services, and enables death, not “parenthood” — that purposefully deceives women.
Crisis pregnancy centers do not tell women that they offer abortion services. In fact, they are upfront in stating that they don’t provide abortions or abortion pills. Any woman who goes to one thinking that these voluntary, pro-life organizations will abort her child will soon find out that not to be the case. Moreover, there is no deceit in educating women about the documented risks of abortion.
By contrast, abortion clinics and pro-abortion apologists are deceptive even in the way they speak about abortion. Take the definition of “abortion” from SB1909:
“‘Abortion’ means the use of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or device to terminate the pregnancy of an individual known to be pregnant with an intention other than to increase the probability of a livebirth, to preserve the life or health of the child after live birth, or to remove a dead fetus.”
In other words, abortion is the intentional killing of a child in the womb.
“Reproductive health care,” “reproductive autonomy,” “terminating a pregnancy”: These are all euphemisms intended to change how people think about abortion and to hide the reality of it. Abortion supporters cannot be honest about what abortion is because they know people are appalled when they find out it means the barbaric murder of a human being.
In John 8 Jesus talked with the Pharisees about their disdain for the truth, to the point that they were willing to kill Him rather than recognize it. In verses 43-47, He elaborated on their blindness by saying,
“Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
Those who advance such blatant lies about the killing of children in the womb are doing the work of the devil and they cannot see the truth.
Illinois’ bill goes against the Constitution and its religious liberty protections. No pregnancy center employee can be forced to perform abortions against their conscience, and this law, assuming it is signed, will not hold up under judicial review.
Prevailing in court is not the goal, however. The point of this bill is to confuse women even further and slander these volunteer organizations in such a way that women won’t trust them and will go instead to an abortion clinic, where they will be further deceived and pressured into killing their child.
Those in Illinois should contact Gov. J.B. Pritzker and urge him not to sign this bill. If it is signed, it will be challenged in court, where it will hopefully be quickly blocked and then ultimately overturned. In the meantime, Christians must pray that God would open the minds of mothers, voters, and government leaders who are being tripped up by the unconscionable deceit of the abortion industry and its supporters.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.