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ACLU: Abortion remains legal in Illinois, and that will make the state a refuge as others outlaw it

Pro-life activists counter-demonstrate as pro-choice activists participate in a "flash-mob" demonstration outside of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
Pro-life activists counter-demonstrate as pro-choice activists participate in a "flash-mob" demonstration outside of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

Abortions remain legal and available in Illinois.

That's the main message the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois' Ed Yohnka wants people to take away in the wake of Friday's U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade precedent protecting a woman's abortion access.

That's not true of many of Illinois' neighboring states. Hours after the decision was handed down, Missouri enacted its trigger law, banning abortions in almost all cases.

"Illinois really becomes a refuge state, for people who need health care," Yohnka said.

He said that's not only true for people in neighboring states.

"If you are someone who needs abortion care, and you live in Shreveport, Louisiana, the closest drive you may be able to make in order to get health care that you need is in Illinois. That's how important the work that has been done over the last five years here in this state to ensure that there is a fundamental right for all people to make all health care decisions," he said.

Yohnka said state laws passed in Illinois have created additional protections for abortion access. But he said Friday's decision is still a cause for concern and serves as a call for more legislative action, and not only on abortion. In particular, Yohnka sees warning signs in Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion calling into question other decisions like access to contraceptives for married couples and same-sex marriage.

"I think it really needs to be underscored that these are all rights. These are all rights that people have become accustomed to," he said. "In the case of Roe for nearly a half century that have just been recklessly ripped away in one morning by this court."

Yohnka said abortion is likely to be banned across more than half the country, but he said it'll disproportionately harm certain groups of women.

"It will place an incredible burden on people of color and people struggling to get by financially to be able to access health care. This is not a decision that ends abortion. This is a decision that just makes it harder for people who are already having a hard time," he said.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois is preparing for an additional 20,000 to 30,000 out-of-state patients annually coming to Illinois for abortions in the wake of Friday's Supreme Court decision.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.