Thank you for publishing “The Politics of Autonomy” by John Lesch. Lesch’s essay describes the tension we have seen in Illinois when it comes to balancing individual rights with the views of the majority. For decades, Illinoisans have lived under a state law that gave healthcare providers a right to refuse to provide health care. The law allowed individuals and institutions that hold moral or religious objections to certain types of health care to not only refuse to provide care but also withhold essential information.
The “Right of Conscience Act” did not recognize the personal autonomy of the patient, even when healthcare was medically necessary and the accepted standard of care. The law gave so much latitude that a patient might never know care was being refused. It also deprived patients of making fully informed health care decisions, which is their right.
This year, a bill was passed changing Illinois law, a change that creates a balance between the conscience rights of providers and the rights of patients. The new law, effective January 1, 2017, requires patients are provided with medically accurate information, treatment options and locations where they can seek care.
In Illinois, we have state legislators and a governor who understand that there must be a balance between competing rights.
Whether it is access to birth control or safe and legal abortion, anti–women’s health activists will continue to try and hide that their agenda imposes their own beliefs onto others and ultimately causes harm. Now, more than ever, we need leadership from elected officials who have the wisdom and fortitude to stand up for the individual’s conscience and personal autonomy.
BRIGID F. LEAHY
Director of Public Policy
Planned Parenthood of Illinois