GRANITE CITY, Ill. – Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign a new measure into law soon to protect women in Missouri who seek abortions in Illinois.
The Democratic-controlled Illinois legislature passed a bill that forbids the use of license plate readers (LPRs) to enforce Missouri’s abortion ban at the urging of Democratic Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias.
Illinois lawmakers are concerned about women being prosecuted for going to Illinois, where abortion remains legal, from states like Missouri, where abortion is now illegal.
“It’s scary for patients who fear they could face persecution or prosecution when they return home,” Jennifer Welch, president, and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said at a news conference on Thursday.
LPRs are mounted on streetlights, stoplights, and police cruisers. It records the rear license plate numbers of passing vehicles. Police in Missouri and Illinois use them to track criminals. Giannoulias calls them a useful crime-fighting tool. “Especially when apprehending suspects in violent crimes, recovering stolen vehicles in carjackings,” she said. “But we need to regulate these cameras, so they are not being used for surveillance, tracking the data of innocent people, or criminalizing lawful behavior.”
Abortions became illegal in Missouri with the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Dobbs v. Jackson” decision that overturned “Roe v Wade” last summer. Abortion remains legal in Illinois at places like the Hope Clinic in Granite City. LPRs are posted along nearby highways.
Planned Parenthood reports nearly 25% of those seeking reproductive care in Illinois now come from out of state, up from 5%-7% before “Dobbs v. Jackson.”
The new law HB 3326 states any LPR user in Illinois “shall not sell, share, allow access to, or transfer ALPR information to any state for the purpose of investigating or enforcing a law that: denies or interferes with a person’s right to choose or obtain reproductive health care services or any lawful health care services as defined by the Lawful Health Care Activity Act…”
“With this first-of-its-kind legislation, Illinois is drawing a line in the sand: we will not allow people to be targeted for visiting our state to procure legal healthcare,” Giannoulias said.
State Rep. Katie Stuart of Collinsville, who co-sponsored the bill, said the following via text:
“Extreme politicians in Missouri are forcing women to go through hurdles to access healthcare, and now they are seeking to prosecute those who come to Illinois, where the right to abortion is protected under our laws. In Illinois, we respect and trust women and this is an important, proactive step we are taking to ensure women know their rights are protected in Illinois.”
Supporters of the ban will also apply to transgender procedures and tracking immigration status.