Judge denies Illinois women the right to receive complete information about abortion

Last week, Judge Eugene Doherty of Winnebago County, Illinois suspended a statewide requirement that health care providers who oppose abortion must give referrals and complete information to patients seeking the procedure. Essentially, Doherty denied Illinois women the right to receive complete information about abortion, stating that a lawsuit filed by anti-choice Illinois medical providers who oppose the requirement “raised a fair question as to whether their right to be free from government compelled speech is violated.”

The ruling will apply to the northern Illinois clinics, which include Aid for Women centers based in Chicago, Cicero and Des Plaines, and take effect on Jan. 1 until the case is decided. Aid for Women and other clinics brought the lawsuit against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and other state official in August, after the requirement was signed into law in July. As of next month, the suspension of the law will allow medical providers to legally prioritize their religious views over their patients’ ability to make informed decisions about their bodies.

It’s worth noting that the present law, which Doherty has just suspended, only requires medical providers to offer information and referrals related to abortion if their patients ask. In any normal, sane society, doctors being required to answer patients’ medical questions, aka do their job, wouldn’t be much to ask, but as the year 2016 has demonstrated time and time again, we aren’t living in a normal, sane society.

Failure of providers to do so could result in up to a $10,000 fine or revocation of a medical license, which Matt Bowman, attorney of the coalition of anti-choice providers leading the suit, told the Associated Press “chill[ed] our speech.” Bowman has called Doherty’s latest injunction a “victory for free speech and the freedom of conscience.”

Having only watched a couple episodes of Grey’s Anatomy here and there, I can’t claim to know too much about the profession, but I should think giving patients the complete, objective facts about their medical options is part of the job, and if you’re unable to do your job because of your religious views, the burden shouldn’t fall on your patients.

As for First Amendment rights, no one is forcing medical providers with anti-choice views to work a job that involves telling patients how to access abortion. Just as no one was forcing Kim Davis to be a Kentucky county clerk when treating people equally just drained her soul (poor thing), no one is forcing doctors who just can’t for the life of them support women making informed choices about their bodies, to work a job that entails precisely this. It’s really not that complicated, or at least, it shouldn’t be.

Officials working with the Illinois attorney told the AP that the statute is in place to ensure patients’ rights are not violated because of another individual’s religious objections. Pregnant women who go to doctors seeking help and advice have the right to receive complete information about what their options are, how to access abortion, the safety of the procedure, and the truth about fetal viability. Suspending the statute begs the question of how much choice really matters if it’s not informed choice, or if women don’t even know how to access it. And what kind of society are we living in if it allows individuals’ religious views to negatively affect public health and women’s autonomy?

Doherty has told the AP he expects the case will be appealed regardless of how he rules, so we could be hearing about this one for a while.