Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said he will not prosecute operators of pro-life pregnancy resource centers under a new consumer fraud law after a federal judge called the “deceptive practices” law “stupid and very likely unconstitutional.”
The Illinois General Assembly passed the new legislation (Senate Bill 1909) earlier this year and Governor J.B. Pritzker signed it into law July 27, only to have U.S. District Judge Iain Johnston issue a temporary injunction.
Now Raoul entered a joint motion with Thomas More Society on Dec. 11, agreeing to make the injunction permanent. Raoul says he will not try to enforce the law, which would have prohibited pro-life pregnancy resource centers from sharing information on alternatives to abortion by labeling that communication as “deceptive business practices.” The penalty would have been up to $50,000 fine per incident. The permanent injunction is a victory for more than 100 pro-life pregnancy resource centers in Illinois.
Attorney hopes move ‘serves as a warning’
Thomas More Society, a Catholic legal organization, represented five pro-life organizations in the suit. Peter Breen was their lead attorney.
“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,” Breen said.
Thomas Glessner, founder and president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, one of the plaintiffs, hailed the agreement. He told the Washington Times the Illinois law “was an absolute weaponization of government that unfairly and unconstitutionally targeted pregnancy centers simply because they refused to refer for or perform abortions.”
Raoul issued a statement that the remainder of the consumer fraud law remains in effect. He defended his position on abortion, even though he agreed not to prosecute pro-life advocates on the basis of this law. “As filed, this proposed order is agreed to by the parties in this case and in no way affects my ongoing work protecting women’s rights to access the full range of reproductive health services,” Raoul said.
‘Rejoicing’ over ‘pro-life victory’
Molly Malone, assistant legislative chair of Illinois Right to Life, told the Illinois Baptist that “since Senate Bill 1909 was introduced, pro-lifers in Illinois have been crystal clear that it was completely unconstitutional.”
“The state cannot compel or suppress speech, and this is precisely what SB 1909 sought to do simply because of the pregnancy centers’ conviction against abortion,” Malone said. “So, while we are not surprised that this was the outcome of this draconian bill, we rejoice for this pro-life victory in Illinois today.”
Kevin Carrothers, executive director of Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, called the agreement a victory.
“The language in the law was ambiguous; it lacked clear criteria for prosecution,” said Carrothers, who is also a pastor and an attorney. “This action, led by the Thomas More Society, defends lives and helps protect what our ministries are doing to safeguard the unborn.”
BCHFS has operated GraceHaven Pregnancy Resource Clinic in Mount Vernon since 2020. Illinois Baptist State Association churches have supported GraceHaven with supplies for pregnant women and new mothers as part of the Buckets of Blessing campaign at the IBSA Annual Meetings for the past two years.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Illinois Baptist staff and shared with The Baptist Paper.