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The Illinois Attorney General is hailing a new state law that will prevent hospitals from billing survivors of sexual assault for medical forensic exams.

Lisa Madigan, who pushed for the legislation, says it removes a barrier that may keep some rape victims from going to the hospital immediately after the crime.

Federal law requires Illinois to certify that survivors are not being billed for “rape kit” exams. That’s a condition of receiving federal funds.

Flickr user frankieleon / "Vaccination" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois parents who cite religious objections to not having their children immunized will have to get a doctor's signature confirming they've been informed of the risks. 

A new law requires parents of children entering kindergarten and grades six and nine to provide Certificates of Religious Exemption with a health care provider's signature if they opt out of vaccine requirements. Supporters hope it will reduce the number of religious exemptions, which have more than doubled since 2009.

Vijay Kumar Koulampet, CC BY-SA 3.0 / via Wikimedia Commons

Wisconsin may ban research on aborted fetal tissue. A bill moving through the legislature would outlaw selling, donating, and experimenting with fetal body parts in Wisconsin. Republican lawmakers behind the measure say it wouldn’t affect current research using existing cell lines.

  The Wisconsin Assembly’s criminal justice committee held a hearing Tuesday: supporters say they hope to have the votes lined up to pass the ban as early as next month.

The Illinois State Museum

A mysterious fungus is threatening to wipe out some isolated populations of rare rattlesnakes. 

In Illinois, the fungus infects about 15 percent of eastern massasauga rattlesnakes: it kills up to 90 percent of those that contract it. There are only about 300 of the snakes in Illinois, mostly in Clinton county. The swamp rattler has also been found in Cook, DuPage, and Will counties. It was already a candidate for the federal endangered species list before the fungus was discovered. 

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation to end mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles.

The Republican signed the measure Monday. It will take effect Jan. 1.

The Legislature approved the bill in response to a 2012 U. S. Supreme Court ruling that sentencing people under 18 to mandatory life without parole is unconstitutional.

Flickr user Lindsey G "Beer Trio Horizontal" CC BY 2.0 / http://bit.ly/1SnzmJP

Happy hour drink specials will make a comeback in Illinois under legislation signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner. 

The discounted drink specials have been banned in Illinois since the late 1980s over concerns about excessive drinking and impaired driving.

A lawyer for former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert says media reports of alleged past misconduct have severely complicated the hush-money case.

Attorney Thomas Green told a federal judge during a Tuesday status hearing that the allegations are "an 800-pound gorilla'' in the room.

Vijay Kumar Koulampet, CC BY-SA 3.0 / via Wikimedia Commons

The Wisconsin State Assembly has passed a bill banning non-emergency abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

The Republican-controlled chamber approved the bill 61-34 Thursday. The Senate passed the measure in June. It now goes to Governor Scott Walker, who has said he will sign it into law. 

Under the proposal, doctors who perform a non-emergency abortion after 20 weeks could be punished by up to $10,000 in fines and 3 1/2 years in prison. The bill doesn't provide exceptions for pregnancies resulting from sexual assault or incest.  

JENNIFER BRDLIK / ELEVATED CARE

Illinois residents who want to add specific diseases to the state's medical marijuana pilot program have another chance to submit their suggestions starting tomorrow.

The Illinois Department of Public Health will accept petitions through July. Instructions will be posted on the program's website. An advisory board will review the petitions and hold a public hearing.

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The poisoning death of a Highland Park couple draws more attention to the potential dangers of keyless auto ignitions.

Pasquale and Rina Fontanini were found dead last week. Their son, who is a local fire department lieutenant, says lethal levels of carbon monoxide were in the home after the couple left their car with a keyless ignition running in the garage.

Safety advocates say up to a dozen deaths nationwide occur because of such scenarios and want immediate action.

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