What does it mean, as a medical provider, to participate in a procedure that you find morally objectionable? This is the question at the heart of a federal lawsuit filed in September against the State of Illinois by three local pregnancy centers. In July, Illinois passed a law that requires doctors, hospitals and pregnancy centers to refer patients who ask about abortion to local providers if they do not provide the service themselves. The law was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican.
Critics of the amendment claim it was directed specifically at pregnancy centers that work to offer pro-life options for young mothers. In a federal lawsuit, the plaintiffs’ attorney argues that the new law violates First Amendment free speech rights as well as the right to freely exercise religion. “The government shouldn’t be putting messages in people’s mouths,” said Noel Sterett, the attorney who filed the suit. “It’s quite easy to find that [abortion] information,” he added. “Go ahead and Google it. We don’t have to violate others’ conscience in order to make that happen.”
Pregnancy centers have become a target of pro-choice groups who believe these organizations mislead women by not providing them with their full range of options. But these centers are usually independent and do not take state money. A referral may seem harmless to some, but to pro-life advocates who are passionate about supporting young mothers, it strikes at the very heart of their mission. These centers should be free to go about their work without government interference. Government attention would be more fruitfully directed toward supporting young mothers who need child care and other crucial assistance after a child is born.