Secretary of State Police temporarily closed access to the state capitol Wednesday as anti-abortion groups filled the hallways in a bid to stop lawmakers from moving forward with several bills that would change abortion laws in Illinois. 

Shortly after a midday rally in the capitol rotunda in Springfield kicked off, Secretary of State Police, which guard the entrances to the capitol, closed it down.

“Due to concerns with overcrowding, the Capitol Police made the decision to temporarily restrict entrance to the Capitol Building,” Secretary of State Press Secretary Henry Haupt said in an email. “The top priority is to ensure the safety of all those inside the building. Once Capitol Police were able to direct the crowd to other areas within the building, the doors were reopened.”

Anti-abortion groups from around the state participated in the lobbying effort Wednesday. State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said the abortion measures she supports are meant to keep the medical procedure legal and safe.

“Most of us know [abortion rights are] really under attack by our president [Donald Trump],” Bush said. “I think there’s questions certainly about how conservative the [U.S.] Supreme Court is.”

Bush said the bills she backs would protect rights for women.

“This is just making sure that we continue to protect a women’s right to choose and make sure that women are able to make the decisions that they need to make about their reproductive health,” Bush said.

State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said the bills being advanced by Democrats go beyond just keeping abortion legal in Illinois. One measure, she said, would allow for abortions at any stage in the pregnancy.

Bryant said Gov. J.B. Pritzker doesn’t have a mandate to make the state, as he said, the most progressive state in the nation for reproductive rights.

“Not everyone votes, but I promise you on this issue, you’ll find that if you look at the witness slips in opposition of these bills both in the House and in the Senate, we’re talking about tens of thousands,” Bryant said.

State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, who is 24-weeks pregnant, said there are measures allowing abortions for any reason beyond just the health of the mother.

“I have a healthy baby, I’m healthy, and the people who are pushing this would say that it could be my decision to end his life when he has a 62 percent chance of living if he were born today,” Bourne said.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.