SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – One Illinois bill awaiting the governor’s review would restrict the use of the state’s license plate readers in cases involving abortion care seekers.
Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias and other Illinois state representatives spoke briefly about the bill Thursday in Chicago, though some aspects of how this practice might be enforced remain to be determined.
House Bill 3326, sponsored by Giannoulias, would reportedly prevent law enforcement from other states from being able to access license plate reader data in Illinois with the intent of tracking or penalizing people seeking or assisting others with abortion care.
According to Giannoulias, no states currently prohibit automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) from being used to track or penalize abortion seekers. ALPR technology allows police to read thousands of license plates per minute from cameras placed on roadways. Illinois currently has no regulations on how vehicle license plate data is shared.
Because of that, Giannoulias says it’s important to have a system that doesn’t violate the rights or jeopardize the safety of abortion seekers.
“No one seeking abortion care in Illinois should be harassed in any fashion, and I’m committed to enabling individuals to pursue and obtain the lawful healthcare they need without government interference,” said Giannoulias via a news release. “License plate readers are an important tool for law enforcement – especially when apprehending suspects in violent crimes or recovering stolen vehicles in carjackings – but we need to regulate these cameras so they aren’t abused for surveillance, tracking the data of innocent people or criminalizing lawful behavior. This legislation sets common-sense standards and protocols to ensure that license plate data is used properly.”
As this bill gets considered, some states like Texas and Oklahoma, have bounty laws in effect for anyone who aids someone in getting an abortion. FOX 2’s Chris Hayes has been reporting that license plate reader cameras have been connected to many breakthroughs in recent St. Louis area criminal cases with out-of-state ties.
Giannoulias’ office says the bill “still allows law enforcement to use ALPR technology for investigating forcible felonies, motor vehicle theft and missing person alerts, but it protects a person’s right to choose.” It also would prevent attempts to prosecute a person based on their immigration status.
“We are grateful to Secretary Giannoulias for championing this crucial civil liberties issue that will help ensure that Illinois remains an oasis for safe access to abortions and other reproductive healthcare,” said Sarah Resnick, CEO of Personal PAC. “HB3326 ensures that those seeking healthcare in Illinois can trust that their license plate data will be secure and protected, and that Illinois law enforcement agencies and municipalities will never turn their information over to states seeking to persecute them. This legislation is a model for the nation, and we are proud to have been part of the coalition that led to its passage.”
Illinois is one of 16 U.S. states with abortion protections in place after the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade last June. Gov. Pritzker signed legislation for enhanced abortion protections in 2019, protecting abortion until a fetus is viable outside the womb.