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What Roe V. Wade Being Overturned Means For Illinois

Chicago and Illinois officials have vowed to protect reproductive health care locally — but providers are concerned they'll be overwhelmed by out-of-staters who need to travel here for care.

Thousands of people marched on June 24, 2022 to protest the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, rolling back abortion rights throughout the U.S.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, ending decades of abortion protections in the United States.

But Chicago and Illinois officials have vowed to protect reproductive health care locally and turn the city into a “haven” where people from out of state can travel for safe abortions.

Here’s what the ruling means for Chicago and Illinois:

Chicagoans, Illinoians Can Still Get Abortions

Abortions are still protected in Chicago and throughout Illinois, and Illinois’ Reproductive Health Act requires private insurance to cover abortion services.

It wasn’t always that way. Illinois previously had a “trigger law” that would have kicked in and made abortions illegal if Roe v. Wade was overturned.

The trigger law was eliminated in November 2017 under then-Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Then, in 2019, lawmakers signed off on a law to protect reproductive health care — including abortions — throughout the state. That law is in effect.

And officials have said they will protect that law and find ways to expand reproductive health care.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Thousands of people marched on June 24, 2022 to protest the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, rolling back abortion rights throughout the U.S.

Reproductive Care Will Be Protected For The Future, Officials Vow

Lightfoot and Pritzker have repeatedly vowed to protect reproductive care and fight any attempts to restrict or ban abortions in Chicago and Illinois.

Pritzker — running for re-election this November — has said Illinois will remain a pro-choice state so long as he is governor.

“Let me make this explicit and clear to women throughout our state, the Midwest, and our nation: Illinois will be a safe haven for the exercise of your reproductive rights,” Pritzker said in a Friday speech. “In Illinois, Roe v. Wade is still the law, and it will remain the law as long as we have a pro-choice legislature and a pro-choice governor.

“Here, we trust you to make your own decisions about your reproductive health. We will defend your right to bodily autonomy.”

Pritzker said he’ll call for a special session of the General Assembly so representatives can take action to further protect reproductive health care.

And Lightfoot has said she is devastated by the Supreme Court’s decision, but she will fight to defend abortion protections in Chicago and to help out-of-staters.

“As part of Chicago’s Justice for All pledge, we promise that here in Chicago, we will continue to fight to protect the right to choose — no matter what the Supreme Court says or what other surrounding states do,” Lightfoot said in a statement Friday. “We cannot and will not let this setback be a lasting defeat.”

With Elections Coming, Could Abortion Protections Be Rolled Back?

Illinoisans will head to ballot boxes Nov. 8 to decide on a governor and legislators to lead the state, as well as on several federal representatives of Illinois.

Pritzker, the current governor and Democratic nominee, has vowed to expand and protect abortion access. Republicans have not yet selected their nominee — the primary is set for June 28, though early and mail-in voting has begun — from a field of six candidates.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Darren Bailey and Jesse Sullivan have said they’d roll back some of Illinois’ abortion protections. Another prominent candidate, Richard Irvin, has largely sidestepped questions about the issue, though he and another candidate, Gary Rabine, have described themselves as “pro-life.”

It’s unlikely Republicans will be able to take enough seats in the state Legislature to roll back laws that protect abortion and reproductive health care.

More Out-Of-Staters Expected To Come To Chicago, Illinois For Abortions

Local reproductive health care providers have said they expect to see a surge in patients coming to them from outside Illinois as other states ban and heavily restriction abortions.

Local providers, like Planned Parenthood Illinois, had already been spread thin in recent years as nearby states clamped down on reproductive health care and more people had to travel to Illinois for care.

Now, Planned Parenthood Illinois could see double to five times as many out-of-state patients coming to Illinois for abortion care, its president has said. Many states around Illinois are expected to immediately or quickly ban or heavily restrict abortion access, leaving millions in the Midwest in “abortion deserts” where they can’t get care.

Health care providers have said they need long-term support to deal with locals who need care and out-of-state patients. Officials have expressed concern that people in other states who can’t come here for that care could die, be injured, go without care or be forced to carry a pregnancy.

“Illinois is such a critical state in our region. It’s dire — people are going to be forced to remain pregnant,” Megan Jeyifo, executive director of the Chicago Abortion Fund, previously said.

Chicago has created a $500,000 fund to help people — including out-of-staters — access safe abortions and reproductive health care in the city.

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