UChicago Medicine’s in-house abortion clinic, the Ryan Center, performs illegal, post-viability abortions and advertises them online. Specifically, the Ryan Center performs abortions up to a threshold of 23 weeks 6 days per its website, even though most babies are viable as of 22 weeks under the Illinois Reproductive Health Act.
U.S. babies delivered at 22 weeks survive approximately 28% of the time, while babies delivered at 23 weeks survive approximately 55% of the time. Their survival rate is presumably even higher at a state-of-the-art health center like UChicago Medicine.
Under the Act, an unborn baby is viable when “in the professional judgment of the attending health care professional, based on the particular facts of the case, there is a significant likelihood of a fetus’ sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures.”
“Extraordinary” is a term of art commonly used in discussions of end-of-life care, living wills, and Catholic bioethics. It generally refers to medical care that is highly expensive or painful with limited benefits; cancer treatment for the terminally ill is a classic example.
Approximately 10-15% of infants spend some time in a neonatal intensive care unit or NICU, and most of them turn out perfectly normal. This includes Lyla, who was born at 21 weeks and is featured in the cover photo for this piece.
The Reproductive Health Act was passed in 2019 to protect abortion under Illinois state law. It repealed the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, which had been passed shortly after Roe v. Wade to forbid abortion in the event Roe was ever overturned.
However, the Act did not go all the way: it mandated that “if the health care professional determines that there is fetal viability, the health care professional may provide abortion care only if, in the professional judgment of the health care professional, the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the patient.”
The Act includes no specific penalty for illegal abortion. Illinois law does prohibit “intentional homicide of an unborn child,” which carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, the same punishment required for first-degree murder.
Under the now-repealed Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, illegal abortion was a Class A misdemeanor, which included up to 364 days of jail time, up to 2 years of court supervision, and $2,500 in fines. Medical licenses, hospital licenses, and ambulatory surgical treatment center licenses could also be revoked.
Ben, who is a Thinker editor, is a law student with a background in microbiology, management consulting, and politics. He is from Minnesota and did a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines. In his spare time, he enjoys adventure sports and radical books. He tweets at @gogglesmammoth.