Illinois can expand its legacy as a leader in reproductive rights

know about Illinois can expand its legacy as a leader in reproductive rights

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When Governor JB Pritzker signed the Youth Health and Safety Act, he protected the health of hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans. The repeal of the Abortion Parental Notification Act returns bodily autonomy to young people who are often stripped of it.

As reproductive rights continue to come under attack across the country, Illinois is taking a historic step and setting a national example.

Since 1995, the PNA has prevented minors in Illinois from accessing abortion services without notifying their parents. It is one of dozens of similar laws in the US.thirty seven statesrequire parental involvement for a young woman to access abortion services.

These restrictive laws prevent millions of young people from accessing constitutionally protected health care. And they cause particular harm to those who facehigher barriersto worry about now: people of color, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

It is often assumed that restrictive abortion laws do not affect the AAPI community. But my organization, theNational Forum of Asian Pacific American WomenBased in Chicago, she sees the needs and circumstances of our community firsthand.

We knowcultural stigmasmake Asian teens less likely than their peers to discuss sex and unplanned pregnancy with their parents. They are also less likely to discuss pregnancy prevention with their doctors, in part due to fears that their conversations will not be confidential.

As a result, reports suggest that Asian American women access reproductive health careat lower ratesthan white women, and they aremore likeuse cheaper and less effective contraceptive methods. For example, while 89% of white women have used birth control pills, only 57% of AAPI women have done the same.

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Asian-American immigrants face even more challenges. Parents with limited English proficiency —one thirdof Asian Americans in the US—may have difficulty giving consent, while 11 states with parental notification laws require parentsprovide a government-issued ID. These requirements are particularly damaging to a community that is made up of30%of all immigrants and whereone of sevenis undocumented.

Urgent need

Parental notification laws are just one of the anti-abortion restrictions Asian Americans face. In 2011 and 2015, Indiana prosecutorsaddressed two asian american womenunder her state’s feticide law, arguing that even a suicide attempt during pregnancy could amount to a self-induced abortion. And bans against sex-selective abortions across the country have been based on anti-Asian stereotypes.

But Illinois offers a model for how states can uphold and uphold reproductive rights. The repeal of the Abortion Parental Notification Act is the latest in a series of groundbreaking actions the state has taken to protect access to abortion. In 2017, Illinoistook his neighborson the extension of abortion coverage in state health insurance and Medicaid. And in 2019, Governor Pritzker signed legislation establishing a “fundamental right” to abortion under the state constitution.

Such legislation is more urgent than ever, especially now that neighboring states are accelerating their attacks on reproductive rights. Illinois is the only statewithin 500 mileswith a constitutionally protected right to abortion; its closest neighbor that explicitly protects abortion rights is New York. Yalmost all statesbordering Illinois has passed tough anti-abortion laws that could take effect immediately if the US Supreme Court overturns or curtails Roe v. Wade.

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In this way, the Prairie State has become a safe haven for those seeking reproductive health care in the Midwest. In 2018,nearly 6,000 womenvisited Illinois from out of state for abortion services, a number that has surely increased. During the pandemic, women from Missouri began to flock to Illinois for abortion pills.

The courage of these women is a wake-up call for Illinois to maintain and extend its leadership in reproductive rights.

As uninsured Illinoisans struggle to pay for reproductive care, the state legislature must lead the way by developing programs for everyone in need, regardless of health coverage. This expansion must include everyone who accesses abortion services in the state, including those who are forced to come from other places. Although Illinois Medicaidonly appliesfor state residents, the legislature must ensure that out-of-state individuals do not face additional barriers to reproductive health care.

The Illinois Youth Health and Safety Act sent young people an important message: their autonomy is inviolable and their decisions deserve respect. And by making comprehensive health care available to all, Illinois will secure its legacy as a leader in reproductive rights.

Sung Yeon Choimorrow is executive director of the National Forum of Asian-Pacific American Women.

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