Riverside trustees voted 5-0 on Aug. 4 to pass a resolution urging state legislators to declare Illinois a sanctuary state for women exercising their reproductive healthcare rights by choosing abortion as well as for healthcare providers in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June striking down abortion as a constitutional right.
The resolution voices Riverside’s support for a woman’s right to reproductive healthcare, stating that laws criminalizing abortion in other states “are fundamentally unjust and that the state of Illinois should not be complicit in these acts.”
In remarks made just prior to the vote to adopt the resolution, Village President Joseph Ballerine said a copy of the document would be sent to Riverside’s representatives in the Illinois General Assembly, county commissioners and the West Central Municipal Conference, a consortium of more than 40 municipal governments, in the hope that other towns may pass resolutions of their own urging state officials to declare Illinois a sanctuary state.
“Riverside is a small voice, but with the power of our neighboring municipalities that voice will be much louder,” Ballerine said. “I am proud of our village board for taking a leading role in this issue as well as recognizing the power when like-minded municipalities stand in unison.”
In an unusual step, Ballerine asked Madeline Pollock, a sophomore political science major at Case Western University in Cleveland and the daughter of Riverside Trustee Doug Pollock, to read the resolution into the record in its entirety.
“I was honored to be asked to read it,” Madeline Pollock said. “It was important to me because reproductive healthcare and the right to that healthcare is something I believe in strongly. It’s important now more than ever to establish Illinois as a sanctuary state.”
Trustee Cristin Evans, whom Ballerine thanked for bringing the idea of a resolution forward, said taking the step of reading the resolution into the record showed the importance of the issue.
“I have an 18-year-old daughter who is starting college, so it’s scary,” Evans said of states’ decision to criminalize abortion and seek to pursue charges against those who cross state lines to obtain one. “We don’t know what our country is going to look like in 10 years or even five years, so it’s vitally important that we explore every option and start at the local level.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker shortly after the Supreme Court ruling in June announced a special legislative session to bolster protections for those seeking abortions and those providing them. However, that special session was delayed in July and no date has been set for the session to convene.
Because Riverside is a non-home rule community, there are limits to what the village can enact in terms of protecting those seeking abortions. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot last month signed an executive order prohibiting city agencies from participating in any investigation by another state looking to criminally punish those seek abortions or provide them to women.
Also last month, the village of Oak Park, which is a home rule municipality, amended its village code to add a section that protects those seeking or providing abortions. The law prohibits village agencies from assisting in any outside criminal investigation related and states the village will object to subpoenas or requests for information from out-of-state entities pursuing criminal investigations against anyone who received or facilitated an abortion.
While Riverside might not be able to enact those protections through legislation, Evans suggested Riverside could pursue policies along those same lines.
During the Trump administration, for example, Riverside police made it a policy not to honor non-judicial requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for detention of undocumented immigrants.
“We can create a policy that Riverside law enforcement will not aid in any investigation,” Evans said.