Women’s rights take major step forward in Illinois

Recently, Palmer Report pointed out how abortion rights are striking back in some state legislatures, even as other lawmakers are tripping over themselves in a race to pass draconian measures that, they hope, will get Roe v. Wade overturned. The progress continued late last night when the Illinois State Senate passed a law called the Reproductive Health Act, which treats abortion “like every other medical procedure,” according to state Sen. Melinda Bush, who sponsored the bill.

The bill, which passed 34-20 and is expected to be signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker, establishes a woman’s “fundamental right” to have an abortion while clarifying that a “fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have independent rights.” The new law will repeal decades-old abortion legislation that requires spousal consent, waiting periods, criminal penalties for abortion providers, and restrictions on abortion facilities, according to the Chicago Tribune. Once passed, the law will make Illinois “the most progressive in the nation for reproductive healthcare,” according to Pritzker.

Some women who observed last night’s vote from the gallery were dressed as handmaids from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” If you have read the book or seen the Hulu series, you are no doubt familiar with how it hauntingly portrays an alternative future in which the United States has become Gilead, an extremely misogynistic dystopia in which women are valued only insofar as they can get pregnant and give birth. In a Newsweek interview also published yesterday, Ann Dowd, the actress who plays Aunt Lydia, one of Gilead’s cruelest inhabitants, broke character to lash out against the legislators behind the recent wave of restrictive anti-abortion laws. “It’s disgusting to me,” Dowd said. “Go to church and ask for forgiveness: That’s my advice to all of you who are dying to shut down women’s rights.”

After the vote, Sen. Bush proclaimed, “We’re not going back to coat hangers, we’re not going back to dying. We’re not going back. And I am proud to say Illinois is a beacon. For women’s rights, for human rights.” While some legislators do want to turn this country back, many others are working hard to make sure the United States bears no resemblance to Gilead but respects the difficult decisions women may need to make about their own bodies.

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