New Laws Impacting Women in Illinois
February 03 2020

EDUCATION

HB 3550: Sex education courses and instruction in grades 6 through 12 will now be required to include an age-appropriate discussion on the meaning of consent. This includes teaching that consent is a freely given agreement to sexual activity, that consent to one activity does not include consent to others, that a person’s clothing, past activity, lack of resistance and more do not constitute consent, that a person can withdraw consent at any time, and that a person cannot consent to sexual activity if the person is unable to understand due to incapacitation from drugs and alcohol, being asleep or unconscious, having a mental disability or being a minor.

COMBATING SEXUAL HARASSMENT, ABUSE, AND VIOLENCE

SB 75: Lawmakers made several changes this year to employment and civil rights laws to combat sexual harassment in the workplace and provide resources to victims, some of which have already taken effect and some taking effect later.

The Workplace Transparency Act prohibits any contract or agreement (like a non-disclosure agreement) from restricting an employee from reporting allegations of unlawful conduct for investigation.

The state’s Department of Human Rights is now also required to create a sexual harassment prevention training program for employers, plus a separate program specifically for restaurants and bars, and employers must provide training each year.

The Sexual Harassment Victim Representation Act mandates that in any proceeding in which a victim and the accused perpetrator are both members of the same union, they cannot be represented by the same union representative.

SB 1507: The Civil Remedies for Nonconsensual Dissemination of Private Sexual Images Act allows victims of revenge porn to recover damages (economic, emotional distress, punitive and more) in the two years after an image is disseminated or threat to disseminate is made.

HB 2135: This new law removes the statute of limitations for criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and aggravated criminal sexual abuse for all ages, not just minors. Previously, the prosecution could only be brought within 10 years of the offense and only if the victim reported it to law enforcement within three years.

PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH

HB 2895: In April 2018, The New York Times Magazine reported that African-American infants are more than twice as likely to die as white infants, according to government data. And in October 2018, the Illinois Department of Public Health released a report finding that Black women in Illinois are six times as likely to die of a pregnancy-related condition as white women. That report also found that 72% of all pregnancy-related deaths were preventable. To address those grim statistics, lawmakers passed several pieces of legislation. This one requires medical staff caring for pregnant or postpartum women at birthing facilities take annual training on said care, and directs the Illinois Department of Public Health to create an initiative to improve birth equity, including the development of implicit bias training and more.

HB 2: This new measure lays out 21 specific rights of women with regard to pregnancy and childbirth, including things like the right to receive health care consistent with medical standards, the right to choose a midwife or physician, the right to choose her birth setting, the right to receive information on her condition and treatment (including pain relief), the right to privacy, the right to refuse treatment, the right to contact with her newborn, the right to give birth in the position of her choice, and more. Illinois agencies, health care providers, daycare centers, and more will post these rights in prominent places and on their websites.