Agriculture Committee passes abortion bill
BY STEPHEN DI BENEDETTO Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org March 15, 2011 7:50PM
Updated: March 22, 2011 5:01PM
SPRINGFIELD — The House Agriculture Committee might seem like a proper venue to debate the state’s approach toward crossbow-hunting, soybean rust or farmers markets, but it became a battleground Tuesday over abortion.
By a 13-0 vote, before a standing-room-only room of angry abortion-rights supporters clad in “Women are not livestock” T-shirts and buttons emblazoned with a cow, the panel advanced legislation putting new financial burdens on abortion clinics.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Darlene Senger (R-Naperville), would require abortion clinics to be retrofitted to resemble outpatient surgery centers, meaning equipment such as defibrillators and ventilators would be required for the first time while hallway and parking-lot dimensions would have to change.
“Surgical outpatient centers are built for surgery. That means if something goes wrong, they are equipped to deal with it,” Senger said. “I’m just trying to make parity here for the safety for everyone.”
The House Agriculture Committee, stocked mainly by socially conservative Democrats and Republicans from Downstate, has been the conduit to get guns-rights and anti-abortion legislation to the House floor for years — a fact critics of Senger’s bill zeroed in on.
“We ought to be calling ‘shame, shame, shame’ on Rep. Senger and the members of the Agriculture Committee, who may have expertise in regulating muskrats and fertilizer and heifers and roadkill. But women, I respectfully submit, are not livestock,” Colleen Connell said. Connell is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
Senger, whose bill now moves to the House floor, and two other legislators had abortion-related bills targeting women’s access to abortions before the committee.
A second bill also passed, but the sponsor said the bill, which would require abortion clinic employees, even clerical staff, to report instances of child abuse, still needs revisions.
A third measure pushed by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) would impose longer waiting periods on women seeking abortions and require them to view an ultrasound of the fetus one hour before an abortion is performed.
All three sponsors of the bills denied asking that their bills be sent to the Agriculture Committee and did not know who made the decision to put their bills before the panel, though all complimented House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) for giving their bills a chance to be heard.
“I don’t know,” said Senger, when asked why her abortion-clinic bill was in front of the farming committee. “These committees have been all over the place this time. I got some other bills in some crazy places right now, too.”
But House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), who chairs the House Rules Committee that assigns bills to committees, said rank-and-file legislators make the request as to where their bills go in the earliest stages of the legislative process.