News (USA)

Gov. JB Pritzker declares Illinois a sanctuary state for IVF services

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker speaks at the University of Illinois Springfield Wednesday, May 31. 2023.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker speaks at the University of Illinois Springfield Wednesday, May 31. 2023. Photo: Thomas J. Turney/State Journal-Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Alabama Supreme Court’s declaration that embryos have the same legal rights as humans has spooked the nation, with many fearing that it’s the first step toward IVF services being eliminated in conservative states. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been scrambling to ensure protections in response, since an overwhelming number of voters, both pro- and anti-abortion, support IVF access.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) declared his state “an island, a refuge for women across the Midwest who no longer have their rights.” Pritzker has been making it clear that folks in surrounding conservative states are welcome to come to more progressive Illinois for IVF services should their lawmakers pass any restrictions, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois has long been considered one of the best states in which to undergo IVF. “We actually have a pretty long history, a good statutory framework of IVF,” state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D) told WTTW.

“Illinois is the best state to have IVF in, because of insurance protections,” affirmed  lobbyist Stephanie Vojas Taylor, who helped draft parts of the state’s Reproductive Health Act (RHA).

Pritzker signed the RHA in 2019. It establishes people’s fundamental right to make their own decisions about their reproductive health.

In addition to enshrining the right to abortion, the law also explicitly protects IVF access, as well as access to other forms of assisted reproduction. It declares that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of this State.”

In 2023, Illinois expanded the law after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The expansion included stronger protections for “assisted reproduction,” adding the phrase to the definition of reproductive health care under the act and making it clear that the above declaration does not only refer to abortion but to assisted reproductive technology as well.

The update also added protections for those who visit Illinois from other states to receive an abortion and expanded insurance requirements for abortion medications, HIV prevention drugs, and gender-affirming care.

Vojas Taylor said the existence of the RHA means “there won’t be an Illinois Supreme Court that comes out and rules what Alabama did.”

The Alabama Supreme Court’s February 16 decision created widespread fear that IVF providers could face criminal charges if they mishandle or destroy an embryo. Discarding unused or abandoned embryos is a routine part of the IVF process, and the court even acknowledged that its ruling would effectively end IVF treatment in Alabama. Several major providers in the state halted IVF treatment in recent weeks, leaving LGBTQ+ couples, single people, and those who struggle with fertility issues with dwindling access to the most common method of assisted reproduction.

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