Live

Watch CBSN Live

Illinois lawmakers try to protect abortion access as the fate of Roe v. Wade becomes unclear

Illinois lawmakers filed two bills in the state's legislature on Wednesday that aim to "modernize" its abortion laws, including repealing decades-old legislation that criminalized the pregnancy ending procedure. The bills are part of a handful around the country that addresses abortion, spurred by uncertainty surrounding the fate of Roe v. Wade.

Illinois' first bill, dubbed the "Reproductive Health Act," would repeal a host of non-functioning anti-abortion access laws that live on the state's law books. Even though Roe v. Wade protected abortion access for women across the country, many states, including Illinois, still have laws on the books that criminalize the procedure, though they're not in effect.

"The reality is that leaving this law on the books creates misunderstanding for doctors and invites mischief from those committed to barring all abortions in the United States," wrote Illinois State Rep. Kelly Cassidy in an email to CBS News.

The bill would also repeal laws that previously allowed husbands to legally block their wives from obtaining the procedure as well as remove a former requirement for a fetal death certificate following an abortion. According to Cassidy, who sponsored the bill, "abortion care, contraception and maternal care all deserve to be treated like health care, not criminal activity."

Supreme Court blocks controversial Louisiana abortion law

The "Reproductive Health Act" would also require all private health insurance companies in the state to provide coverage for abortions. State employees and Medicaid recipients in Illinois are already guaranteed coverage, according to a fact sheet from the American Civil Liberties Union who supported the bill.

The second bill introduced to the state legislature specifically addresses Illinois' 1995 "Parental Notice of Abortion Act," a law that requires abortion providers to notify a parent or adult family member if a girl under the age of 18 wants to terminate a pregnancy.

With a Republican White House and increasingly conservative Supreme Court, some believe that the days of Roe v. Wade may be numbered. During a 2016 presidential debate, then-candidate Donald Trump said he foresaw the ruling being overturned if he were elected because he planned to appoint pro-life judges. He stressed the issue again in a speech before the 2018 midterm elections.

In the event that the Supreme Court agrees to hear a direct challenge to Roe, and if a majority of the justices vote to overturn that precedent, it would be up to individual states to determine whether to restrict or outlaw abortion within its borders.

Illinois' efforts are one of a handful of recent state-level bills that address that scenario. Last week in South Carolina, lawmakers introduced legislation that would criminalize the procedure, which echoed a successful state ballot measure in Alabama passed in November. In Louisiana, the state attempted to enact a regulation that would have closed all but one its abortion clinics.

Lawmakers in blue-leaning states, including Illinois, have gone the other direction. In New York, lawmakers passed in January their own bill called the "Reproductive Health Act" which allows for abortions after 24 week if the fetus is not viable or if there is a risk to the mother's health. In Virginia, the state's embattled Governor Ralph Northam expressed his approval of a sweeping state bill that would expand abortion access in the state by eliminating a 24-hour waiting period.

Although the Supreme Court has not agreed to hear a direct challenge to Roe yet, it did recently temporarily block an anti-abortion access measure in Louisiana. The decision gave abortion rights advocates a glimpse into how recently appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh may view abortion as a member of the Supreme Court.

Even though Kavanaugh wrote the dissenting opinion, those groups didn't get a clear look into how the new judge may view abortion issues in the future, said Travis Tu, lead counsel on the case for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"Justice Kavanaugh plays his cards very close to the vest in this ruling," Tu said in a telephone interview with CBS News shortly after the Supreme Court ruling about Louisiana. "This is just one step in a long game."

View CBS News In