December 14, 2023

Illinois Agrees to Permanent Injunction Blocking Anti-PRC Law

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is waving the white flag in his legal battle to enforce a law threatening pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) with legal action for engaging in pro-life speech.

SB1909 threatened PRCs with investigations if they were accused of providing "misinformation," including "the omission of any material fact." Because "material fact" was not defined by the legislation, it could be interpreted to require PRCs to refer women for abortions. If enforced, the law would have allowed Illinois to levy $50,000 fines against PRCs found guilty.

District Judge Iain Johnston issued an injunction temporarily blocking SB1909's enforcement on August 3. In his ruling, he stated that the law likely violated the First Amendment. “There’s no doubt who the Attorney General wants to win or lose in the marketplace of ideas, but the government doesn’t get to decide that,” Johnston said. “The people do.”

On December 11, Raoul agreed to an order that would permanently block the enforcement of SB1909. If Johnston signs the proposed order, litigation will cease and the law will not be enforced. Further, the proposed order allows pro-life organizations to seek recovery for litigation costs they experienced while fighting SB1909.

The coalition of pro-life organizations fighting SB1909 was represented by the Thomas More Society. In a statement celebrating the victory, Thomas More Society Executive Vice President & Head of Litigation Peter Breen said,
“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. We are honored to represent NIFLA and other life-affirming organizations to protect them from unjust laws like SB 1909 that seek to put a halt to their good work.”

PRCs offer a variety of free services (often for free) to women experiencing difficult or unplanned pregnancies. These charitable organizations hope to provide life-affirming alternatives for mothers who would prefer to let their children live. The actions threatened by pro-abortion politicians pushing SB1909 were both unwarranted and illegal.

Raoul's own press release is filled with irony. “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. “Furthermore, this proposed order does not alter Illinois’ Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act or my office’s preexisting authority under the act, and I remain committed to protecting consumers against all deceptive practices.”

Pro-life advocates argued during SB1909's passage that Illinois consumer protection laws already protect Illinoisans from deceptive business practices without singling out PRCs or violating their First Amendment rights. A FOIA request also revealed that the attorney general's office had no record of any complaints being filed against a PRC regarding deceptive business practices While Raoul's statement may have been intended as a threat, it suggests that he knew pro-lifers were right.