Illinois GOP Governor Signs Bill Erasing Conscience Rights for Pro-Lifers

Like many pro-life Republicans, I held my nose and voted for Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner in 2014. That turned out to be a mistake. Below I tender my mea culpa.

In June, we wrote about Rauner’s opportunity to veto SB 1564, an oppressive, anti-religious freedom bill passed by Illinois’ Democrat-led state legislature, which would require pro-life medical professionals and pro-life pregnancy centers to participate in and/or openly advocate for abortion. Rauner, who famously campaigned on having “no social issues agenda,” signed SB 1564 into law on Friday.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (photo credit: Steven Vance via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (photo credit: Steven Vance via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Instead of siding with the faithful pro-life conservatives who believed his “social issues” campaign promise and worked hard to get him elected in 2014, Rauner chose to embrace radical anti-religious leftists and pro-abortion advocates who will never vote for him anyway.

So much for the lesser of two evils.

Several weeks ago, Hans von Spakovsky described the impact of SB 1564 in detail over at The Daily Signal:

Currently, doctors who object to performing abortions because of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction are protected under Illinois law from being forced to violate their consciences.

This bill would upset this balance and force objecting doctors to refer or transfer their patients to abortion providers. Thus, this statute would require a physician to facilitate individuals obtaining abortions even if it violates that physician’s religious beliefs and makes him a party to an operation that he considers immoral or a sin.

According to Illinois Review, a conservative blog, pro-life legal defense groups, including the Alliance Defense Fund and the Thomas More Society, are pledging lawsuits. There is legal precedent to indicate that the bill could be overturned, as von Spakovsky explained:

Fortunately, however, pro-life advocates have a history of winning cases against laws that violate First Amendment freedom and conscience rights. In 2014, a federal court invalidated a Maryland law that required only pro-life centers to post signs advising women to consult licensed medical professionals instead of pro-life counselors.

In another 2014 case, a federal court struck down a Texas law that would have required similar negative advertising, including a required sign “declaring that the facility is not licensed to offer ultrasounds — even though there is no such thing as a facility license to perform ultrasounds, and, therefore, centers cannot obtain such licenses.”

We will watch this story closely over the next several months and update The Pulse 2016 readers on the legal battle.

But for now, thanks to Governor Bruce Rauner — a Republican, by the way  — Illinois is a religious freedom-free, debt-ridden, abortion Mecca that is, shockingly, losing its residents to neighboring states by the minute.

Rauner has a tough re-election battle in 2018, and Illinois is a deep blue state. Rauner’s margin for error will be near zero, and he just lost tens of thousands of votes from pro-life, pro-religious freedom conservatives.

Jon Schweppe is the Communications Director for American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @JonSchweppe.