SPRINGFIELD — The issue of abortion needs to be treated as less of a “political football” so individuals on both sides of the debate can have “fundamental and ideological discussions,” Sen. Elgie Sims, Jr., said Wednesday.
In a conference call with members of the national media, the Chicago Democrat said reproductive health care decisions are “very, very personal,” whether a woman decides to carry her pregnancy to term, give her child up for adoption or choose to have an abortion. Sims said he thinks people must be able to have conversations about what it means to exercise health care rights.
“They have very, very visceral responses on one side or the other to these discussions and that’s OK. There is nothing wrong with us having discussions that are heated,” he said. “But let’s have discussions that are focused on enacting good, sound policy. That is what this entire discussion is all about.”
Sims is leading the push for legislation that would allow a minor to have an abortion procedure without consulting with her parent or guardian. He told reporters that under Illinois law, a pregnant minor can make a number of health care decisions without the involvement of her parents.
“You can simply not have justice without equity,” he said.
His measure would repeal the Parental Notification Act, which mandates a minor speak with her parent or guardian before getting an abortion. It provides an avenue for her to petition a court for permission if she does not feel safe having that conversation with her parent, for example.
“Due to the abortion stigma and the fact that many young people experience abusive or insecure home situations, it is critical that young people have access to abortion without being forced to put their health and safety at risk,” Sims said.
He is also a chief co-sponsor of the Reproductive Health Act, legislation that would repeal and replace Illinois’ abortion statute with language proponents and opponents agree would be more liberal than that of any other state in the nation.
The press call was organized by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which called Sims a “reproductive health care champion.”
Also participating in the conversation was Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager with the Guttmacher Institute, and Leana Wen, Planned Parenthood president.
Nash said abortion opponents in states across the country are “energized” by the conservatism of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the first three months of 2019 have brought a “real shift in the type and scope” of legislation restricting access to abortion procedures.
“We must aggressively push for policies that protect and expand reproductive health care access in the states, which are the critical backstop to protecting the right to safe, legal abortion,” Wen said. “… Planned Parenthood will not sit by and watch our rights and our freedoms be taken away.”
There are about 20 bills related to abortion percolating in the General Assembly this session. Eight would add a restriction to abortion access.
“We’ve all heard and we all know: Roe (v. Wade) is seriously under attack and we have to continue to fight to provide access to safe, legal reproductive health care for everyone,” Sims said.