Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul agreed yesterday not to prosecute pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) and pro-life organizations under a dangerous pro-abortion law, an encouraging victory for the state’s embattled pro-life community.
Senate Bill 1909, authored by Raoul and signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in July, amended the state’s existing Deceptive Business Practices Act to restrict what PRCs and pro-life organizations could say about abortions.
Violators could have been forced to close or pay up to $50,000 in fines.
Thomas More Society quickly sued Raoul on behalf of five Illinois pro-life organizations, arguing the law violated PRCs’ right to free speech.
U.S. District Judge Iain D. Johnston emphatically agreed, calling the law “stupid and likely unconstitutional” in his August ruling, which temporarily stopped the law while the case went through the courts.
Raoul filed a Joint Motion to Enter an Agreed Order with Thomas More Society documenting his decision to allow the law to be placed under a permanent injunction, rendering it void, without further legal battles. He also agreed to pay back the plaintiffs’ attorney fees.
Peter Breen, Executive Vice President at Thomas More and head attorney in the case against Raoul, celebrated the pro-life victory in a statement Monday:
SB 1909 exempts abortion facilities and their speech, while exclusively regulating pro-life organizations and their speech, in flagrant violation of the First Amendment. This law is just one of a number of illegal new laws enacted across the country that restrict pro-life speech — we hope this permanent injunction, with full attorney’s fees, serves as a warning to other states that would seek to follow Illinois and try to silence pro-life viewpoints.
Raoul offered no explanation for his change of heart, noting only that the agreement wouldn’t stop his “ongoing work protecting women’s rights to access a full range of reproductive health services,” or his ability to prosecute organizations who violate existing laws against consumer fraud.
Perhaps Raoul felt he was fighting an uphill battle. As the Daily Citizen previously reported, SB 1909 was riddled with problems:
- It made three explicit, sweeping generalizations about PRCs in the bill text, saying:
- They “repeatedly misled” people looking for abortions using “deceptive, fraudulent, and misleading information and practices.”
- They “aim to dissuade pregnant persons from considering abortion care … without any regard for a pregnant person’s concerns or circumstances.”
- They use “misinformation” with “the intention to cause undue delays and disruption to protected, time-sensitive, reproductive health care services.”
- It punished PRCs for warning women about the medical consequences of abortion by broadly defining the risks of abortion — like increased risk of infertility — as misinformation.
- It forced PRCs to repeat positive, government-approved information about abortion by making “omission of material fact” a deceptive business practice.
- It immunized facilities that provided or facilitated abortions from any speech restrictions.
- It was written and enforced by Raoul, who publicly and vehemently supports abortion.
- The Attorney General’s office claimed the law would address complaints against PRCs, but a Freedom of Information Act request revealed no complaints had been filed against PRCs under the existing Deceptive Business Practices in at least ten years.
Judge Johnston castigated Raoul for many of these problems in his ruling temporarily stopping the law, opining,
“[SB 1909] is likely unconstitutional because it is a blatant example of government taking the side of whose speech is sanctionable and whose speech is immunized — on the very same subject no less. It is stupid because its own supporter admitted it was unneeded and was unsupported by evidence when challenged.”
- “As the Court stated during the hearing without any pushback by Defendant Raoul’s counsel, SB 1909 immunizes abortion providers from asserting something as untruthful as this: ‘Abortions cure male pattern baldness.’”
- “There is ample evidence in the record before the Court at this time that [the act] was adopted because of Defendant Raoul’s disagreement about the content of Plaintiffs’ speech.”
- “With only very minor exceptions discussed later, Defendant Raoul did not defend the merits of [the act] — understandably so.”
- “The Germans have a word called ‘verschlimmbesserung.’ This noun essentially translates into English as ‘to the moment something is made worse by improvement.’ The verb form is ‘verschlimmbessern.’ As shown in this Order, in the most charitable light, Defendant Raoul engaged in verschlimmbessern.”