Illinois House Agriculture Committee To Hear Abortion Bill In Strategic Move From Pro-Life Reps

A bill that would impose stricter operation standards on health care centers that perform abortions is being pushed through the Illinois House Agriculture Committee this month, in a strategic move that the state has seen before.

House Bill 4117 would amend the Ambulatory Surgical Treatment Center Act to extend a host of new requirements to surgical centers that perform abortions, as well as "any other facility where 50 or more abortions are performed in any calendar year." The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois calls the regulations "excessive and medically unnecessary" and accuses the bill of targeting women's health clinics to impose undue burdens on their operations.

The standoff between pro-choice and pro-life activists isn't uncommon, but the battleground is: the bill is scheduled to be heard in the Agriculture and Conservation Committee on Feb. 21.

Last year, the Better Government Association reported that seven bills had been sent through the Agriculture Committee that had nothing to do with farming or the environment, most of which dealt with controversial issues including gambling, abortion and even the state's hotly-debated concealed carry measure.

Downstate Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) told the BGA that the bills' placements were no accident, and that the Agricultural committee's tendency to support pro-gun bills and other conservative policies has been widely known by activists and legislators.

"These issues are 'wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve' issues," Phelps told the BGA. "You want to put it to a committee where it's going to get [voted] out so you can get it to the floor."

A nearly identical abortion-related bill flew through the committee last year before being narrowly defeated on the House floor, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. When asked why the abortion bill will be heard by this particular committee, chief sponsor Rep. Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine) told the newspaper he "just [didn't] want to answer that question."

The ACLU collected signatures opposing last year's abortion clinic regulation bill, honing in on the argument that "women are not livestock," according to the online petition. They've promised to oppose this attempt as well.

"Those legislators know a lot about livestock, crops and salt licks. They do not know women's health," Colleen K. Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois, said in a statement, according to the Post-Dispatch.