Case filed in Sangamon County on taxpayer-funded abortion law
The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has joined a coalition of pro-life organizations and legislators in filing suit against state officials to stop the implementation of House Bill 40.
“I am grateful to the Thomas More Society for bringing this lawsuit on behalf of Illinois taxpayers, county and statewide pro-life organizations, several Illinois legislators from across the state, and the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois,” said Bishop Thomas John Paprocki. “It is despicable that the Illinois General Assembly passed this bill requiring taxpayers to pay for abortions and shameful that Gov. Rauner broke his promise to veto it. I pray that this litigation will lead to reversing this disgraceful law.”
“Under HB 40, Illinoisans will be forced to pay for 20,000 to 30,000 abortions per year with their tax dollars,” said Peter Breen, Thomas More Society special counsel who drafted the lawsuit. “Even apart from the sincere moral objections that many folks have to paying for abortions, there is no money in this year’s Illinois state budget to pay for them. And, because of games played by Senate Democrats, in holding HB 40 until late September, after the May 31 cutoff for legislative action, this bill can’t be effective until June 1,  not Jan. 1.” Breen, of Lombard, also serves as the state representative for Illinois’ 48th legislative district.
The complaint, filed Nov. 30 in Sangamon County Circuit Court, levels two challenges against HB 40. First, the General Assembly has not set aside funds to pay for potentially thousands of elective abortions and still be within the balanced budget requirements of the Illinois Constitution. Second, despite efforts to make HB 40 effective Jan. 1, 2018, it cannot come into effect until June 1, because it did not pass out of the Senate until Sept. 25, 2017. The Illinois Constitution imposes a May 31 cut-off date for General Assembly action for bills to go into effect earlier.
If implemented, HB 40 would force every Illinoisan to pay for free abortions for those on Medicaid and state employee health insurance. This would apply through the full nine months of pregnancy and for any reason, even as the latest scientific research has shown that the unborn child can feel pain and survive outside the womb.
There is no cap on the number of abortions that could be covered under Medicaid and no cap on the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on these procedures. Based on recent figures from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services showing a cost of up to $1,000 per Medicaid abortion, state government spending on abortions could range anywhere from $15 million to $30 million.
The state of Illinois is unique in having a tradition of allowing taxpayer lawsuits, which are brought by private individuals to protect the public treasury.
“Regardless of your feelings about abortion, it is incredibly fiscally irresponsible to enact a law designed to spend millions of dollars that Illinois does not have,” said Breen. “The state legislative process has steps that must be correctly followed in order to prevent budget-busting laws like this from being ramrodded through. It is part of our civic process of checks and balances.”
Joining the Springfield Catholic diocese in bringing the lawsuit are the following state legislators: state Sens. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg; Kyle McCarter, R-Vandalia; Dan McConchie, R-Lake Zurich; and Paul Schimpf, R-Murphysboro. State Representatives who signed on as petitioners include Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield; Steve Reick, R-Woodstock; Barbara Wheeler, R- Crystal Lake; and Keith Wheeler, R-North Aurora.
The pro-life groups listed on the complaint include: the Pro-Life Action League, Inc.; Springfield Right to Life; Clinton County Citizens For Life; Henry County Right to Life, Inc.; Knox County Right to Life, NFP; Lake County Right to Life Committee, Inc.; Morgan County Right to Life, Inc., NFP; Pro-Life Action League, Inc.; Illinois Right to Life Action; and the Illinois Federation for Right to Life.
The documents themselves including the Petition for Leave to File a Taxpayer Action to Restrain and Enjoin the Disbursement of Public Funds and the companion complaint can be viewed at www.thomasmoresociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/HB-40-Petition-Complaint-FINAL-as-filed.pdf].
At press time, a first hearing on the matter has been set for Dec. 6 before Judge Jennifer Ascher at the Sangamon County Courthouse.
The Thomas More Society and Tom Ciesielka, TC Public Relations contributed to this article.