Maternal health, abortion protection measures advance as session nears end

Maternal health, abortion protection measures advance as session nears end

By ALEX ABBEDUTO
Capitol News Illinois
abbeduto@capitolnewsillinois.com

In the final days of their spring legislative session, Democrats in the General Assembly advanced measures aimed at expanding and protecting aspects of maternal and women’s health care.

If signed into law, the measures would expand insurance coverage of pregnancy and postpartum services, maintain abortion as a viable treatment option for women experiencing certain emergencies, and regulate how providers and authorities can keep and use abortion patient data.

Proponents claim House Bill 5142 will improve maternal and neonatal health outcomes by providing coverage for pregnancy and postpartum support services – like doulas, midwives, home births, lactation consultants, breastfeeding supplies and more.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found more than 80 percent of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable from 2017 through 2019. Another CDC study found mortality rates are significantly higher for Black women than women of other races.

Advocates for the measure, including sponsor Sen. Lakesia Collins, D-Chicago, said expanding coverage is about improving health equity.

“This bill impacts everyone from urban Chicago to rural southern Illinois,” Collins said during floor debate. “Women across every community face unexpected complications during pregnancy and without the coverage of insurance are face-to-face with dangers to their life.”

Women covered under Medicaid, state group health plans, fully insured plans, municipal and local health plans would have new coverage for pregnancy and postpartum support services. But the mandate only impacts plans that don’t fall under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA. 

A recent amendment would prohibit insurance plans from charging copays, except for services relating to home births. There was confusion among senators as to whether miscarriage management would require a copay, but Collins said cost-sharing for that type of surgical intervention would be prohibited by the same provision that excludes abortion services from requiring copays.

An early estimate from the governor’s office suggests passage of the bill could add $5.8 million to the state’s cost for funding Medicaid if women covered in that program make full use of the expanded coverage, especially for doula services.

The Senate approved the bill along party lines Thursday, 40-19, sending it back to the House, where it passed 70-35 on Saturday.

Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton issued a statement celebrating the measure as “lifesaving.”

“My heart is with our Black mothers in particular, who, for too long, have felt the lingering shadow of fear as they welcome new life into the world.”

Pritzker also issued a statement saying he would sign the bill.

 

Abortion protections

House Bill 581 would enshrine into law that abortion is a viable treatment option for pregnant women experiencing emergencies in Illinois.

The federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, requires emergency departments treat and stabilize every patient, but some emergency department physicians aren’t sure if they’re allowed or obligated to provide emergency abortion services in states where abortion was made illegal after Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022. Illinois Democrats say they want to make it clear for physicians and pregnant people in the state that they are entitled to all treatments – including abortion.

The bill states doctors may provide abortions to patients experiencing life-threatening or altering conditions, including things like ectopic pregnancy, preeclampsia, and fertility loss related to pregnancy complications.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dagmara Avelar, D-Bolingbrook, said it’s imperative the bill pass before June, when the U.S. Supreme Court could rule on two Idaho cases that pit the state’s abortion ban against EMTALA, which could potentially eliminate abortion as an option for emergency care.

“What we want to do here in Illinois, is that in case that the federal Supreme Court limits EMTALA and it creates confusion around emergency treatments in Illinois, that we ensure that in Illinois, we’re maintaining the status quo,” Avelar said.

The bill advanced out of the House primarily along party lines, 73-36. As of Saturday, the measure was on the Senate’s calendar awaiting final action.

Another abortion-related measure cleared the General Assembly on Thursday. House Bill 5239 bars authorities in Illinois from aiding another state’s investigation of people coming to Illinois for reproductive health care, including abortions. It still allows authorities to cooperate in investigations of activities that would be violations of Illinois law and if cooperation is required under state or federal law.

Read more: Capitol Briefs: Measure blocks interstate probes of abortion services

It also gives individuals the right to sue for civil damages if their information is improperly disclosed and gives minors the right to apply for public aid to obtain family planning services without the consent of their parents. And it gives the state exclusive authority to define and regulate “lawful health care activity,” prohibiting local units of government from doing so.

Editor’s note: This story may be updated pending final action on House Bill 581.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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