Last week, pro-life advocates rallied outside the Illinois state capitol in opposition to Senate Bill 1909, a proposal to crack down on pregnancy resource centers (PRCs). Our very own vice president Terrisa Bukovinac, in her role as the leader of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, spoke at the rally and led the protestors in song.
SB 1909 is anything but progressive. It targets free clinics and community support centers that offer vital services to low-income mothers at no charge. These services vary from place to place and typically include pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, prenatal vitamins, birthing classes, maternity clothing, baby goods, and lactation care. PRCs are run by pro-lifers who understand that the lack of financial and practical support drives the demand for abortion. When the pro-life community meets women’s material needs, abortion rates decline.
True supporters of choice would not have a problem with this. But since PRCs are such a drain on abortion industry revenues, they are a frequent target of legislative abuse. The most notorious instance of this was a California law that would have forced pregnancy centers to give free advertising to abortion businesses, in violation of volunteers’ freedom of speech and conscience. Thankfully, that law was ruled unconstitutional in NIFLA v. Beccerra — but the Supreme Court’s 5-4 vote was dangerously close.
Illinois’ tack is a familiar one: accuse PRCs of deception. But Illinois, like every other state, already has laws against fraud and false advertising. PRC clients have not availed themselves of those laws because the vast majority have positive experiences with their care. PRCs fill critical gaps, as even pro-choice researchers have acknowledged.
So instead of having actual pregnant mothers in need be the judge of what is and is not deceptive, SB 1909 puts that power in the hands of the Attorney General, who in deep-blue Illinois will almost certainly be a pro-abortion extremist. The office is currently held by Kwame Raoul, who has a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood and a 0% rating from right to life groups. Any PRC that the Attorney General deems to have engaged in “deceptive” advertising — or even one he merely thinks “is about to engage in” deceptive advertising — will be fined up to $50,000.
Deception, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. For ideologues who believe that women’s health and abortion are practically synonymous, a neutral, accurate PRC name like “Women’s Health Center” could give rise to legal liability. They won’t be satisfied by anything short of “Aunt Lydia’s House of Anti-Choice Torture.” Many PRCs, unable to absorb a $50,000 hit as they rely on donations, would have to shut down.
Naturally, SB 1909 is one-sided; abortion centers can still pretend to be comprehensive women’s health clinics without offering prenatal care.