First governor to authorize taxpayer-funded abortions
In what many veteran state Capitol observers regard as a stunning reversal, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has signed a bill that allows taxpayer money to pay for abortions. Rauner vowed to veto the bill last April.
House Bill 40 authorizes the use of taxpayer money to pay for elective abortions for Medicaid participants and state of Illinois employees who are covered by state health insurance. It also removes a “trigger” provision in state law that called for elective abortions to become illegal in Illinois if the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturned its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion across the country.
Rauner had said publicly that he would veto HB40 and made that position known to Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, the other Catholic bishops in Illinois including, most notably, Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago (see Bishop Paprocki’s column on page 2). In a little-known legislative maneuver designed to put pressure on Rauner, one of the bill’s sponsors — state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park — used the maneuver to hold the bill in the Senate instead of sending it to the governor upon final passage. By late September, when it became apparent that Rauner was wavering from his promise to veto the bill, Harmon removed the hold and the bill was sent to the governor on Sept. 25. Rauner signed it electronically on Sept. 28.
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“I understand abortion is a very emotional issue with passionate opinions on both sides,” said Rauner in a Sept. 28 news release. “I sincerely respect those who believe abortion is morally wrong. They are good people motivated by principle. But, as I have always said, I believe a woman should have the right to make that choice herself and I do not believe that choice should be determined by income. I do not think it’s fair to deny poor women the choice that wealthy women have.”
Rauner said his pro-choice stance is nothing new, having campaigned on it when running for governor in 2014. Illinois’ First Lady, Diana Rauner, is also well-known as an advocate of abortion rights and both have contributed to abortion rights organizations.
Swift, angry reaction
Groups and individuals opposed to the bill made a loud outcry. Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, issued a statement on behalf of the Catholic bishops in Illinois (see inset).
Illinois House Republican floor leader Peter Breen of Lombard, said an intraparty challenge to Rauner in the upcoming March primary election is “inevitable.”
Republicans in Illinois’ congressional delegation unanimously criticized Rauner’s action. “We have a sacred duty of protecting the innocent and unborn,” said Rep. Darin LaHood, R-18th Dist. “I was proud to vote for legislation on the U.S. House floor that prohibits abortions to be conducted after the 20th week of pregnancy, when babies can hear voices and feel pain.”
“Using taxpayer money to fund the killing of defenseless humans in uterus is bad form on many levels,” said Springfield Right to Life President Tim Moore. “It’s clear that the Illinois Legislative and Executive branches are stacked against the voiceless.”
House Bill is now Public Act 100-0538.Previous references to prohibitions to abortion have been stricken as a result of the governor’s signature. P.A. 100-0538 goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
Mary Massingale of CCI contributed.