This year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois’ Bill of Rights Celebration honors the 35th anniversary of our Reproductive Rights Project and the outstanding advocacy of the Project’s dedicated Director, Lorie Chaiten.Our Reproductive Rights Project was formed 35 years ago, a formalized recognition of the work to advance reproductive health and access directed by the ACLU of Illinois for many years. In 1970, the ACLU filed the first case in Illinois challenging the constitutionality of Illinois’ abortion ban, leading to the first legal abortion in the State. That case was pending in the United States Supreme Court when the Court decided Roe v. Wade.
In 1979, Lois Lipton became the Project’s first Director, followed by Colleen Connell in 1984. Lorie Chaiten was named Project Director in 2001, but this is a bit misleading. Lorie has been a key part of our work for 29 years – since she was a first year associate at Sonnenschein. On staff or as a cooperating attorney, Lorie worked on every reproductive rights case the ACLU of Illinois has litigated since 1985.
Through our litigation, we have protected Illinois from many of the harmful restrictions we are seeing passed in Texas, Ohio, Virginia and many other states around the country. The ACLU has blocked the state of Illinois from enforcing laws that:
- define personhood as beginning at conception;
- impose harmful waiting periods before women can access abortion services;
- bar medically appropriate prenatal testing;
- impose unnecessary abortion clinic regulations;
- require abortion providers to have unobtainable hospital admitting privileges;
- ban so-called “partial birth” abortions;
If not for the ACLU, each of those restrictions would be in effect in Illinois today.
One of the most urgent challenges we currently face is protecting the young women of Illinois and its surrounding states from the harms of the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, which went into effect in August. We are proud of the fact that our litigation kept mandatory parental involvement laws from going into effect for nearly 40 years, protecting two generations of young women in Illinois from these hurtful laws.
With the law now in effect, young women in Illinois who face dangers in their homes from abuse, addiction, mental illness, or absentee parents, must now choose between informing their parents – exposing themselves to the risks of physical and emotional abuse – or face the daunting task of appearing before a judge to ask for a waiver from the law.
In response, Lorie Chaiten and our Reproductive Rights Project launched the Judicial Bypass Coordination Project to ensure that these young women have access to accurate information, and free legal assistance and support to maneuver through this system in the quickest, least harmful way possible.
Our Bill of Rights Celebration is on Saturday, May 10th, the night before Mother’s Day. As we celebrate many different mothers and many disparate types of families, please join us to celebrate and support the legal work and the people who have made these choices possible.