Sunday, 14 May 2017 15:02

Catholic Conference of Illinois: House passage of HB 40 funding of abortions makes little sense when state is already stressed

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CHICAGO — The head of the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops lamented Illinois House passage of legislation authorizing the use of taxpayer money to pay for elective abortions for Medicaid recipients and state employees.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, criticized lawmakers for turning a moral argument into campaign fodder. “Elected representatives today chose raw politics over the innocent lives of the unborn,” Gilligan said.

The passage of House Bill 40 denoted the culmination of a legislative spring break marked by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s promise to veto the legislation, which was quickly followed by accusations of broken campaign promises. Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago issued a public statement in which he thanked the governor for his “principled stand” to veto HB 40.

“Abortion is a controversial issue in this country, but using public money to provide abortions should not be,” Cardinal Cupich stated.

Public opinion polls indicate strong opposition to public funding of abortion. A January 2017 poll conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion for the Knights of Columbus shows that 61 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, including 40 percent of those who say they are pro-choice.

Only 15 states currently pay for elective abortions for Medicaid participants, and 11 of those states do so through a court order, not legislative action.

Gilligan stressed the House’s vote represented a dangerous misplacement of priorities, especially when the state has not had a budget for 22 months and has nearly $13 billion in overdue bills.

“The state can’t pay for essential services, and lawmakers are funding elective abortions — where is the logic in that?” he said.

Gilligan penned a “letter to the editor” of Crain’s Chicago Business prior to the House vote; however, the letter wasn’t published in the widely-read publication until May 1:

What HB 40 would do

I read with interest the second item in Kristen Schorsch’s “5 things to know about Illinois abortion bill HB 40” (April 18). It states that HB 40 “would prevent insurers from denying coverage of abortion services for women on Medicaid and those on the state health insurance plan.”

That’s not what HB 40 would do. Illinois law prohibits the use of state dollars to pay for elective abortions (those outside of abortions performed in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother) in the Medicaid program and state employees’ health insurance plans. Medicaid is paid for with a combination of state and federal funds, which are generated through taxes on Illinois residents. State employees’ health insurance is a benefit that is paid for with, again, dollars generated through taxes on Illinois residents.

HB 40 eliminates the current prohibition on using public monies — generated through taxes on Illinois residents — to pay for elective abortions in the Medicaid program and state employees’ health insurance plans.

That would mean that all Illinois taxpayers would be supporting abortion through their payment of state taxes, no matter their beliefs.

That is what HB 40 would do.

Robert Gilligan
Executive director
Catholic Conference of Illinois

Illinois’ Catholic bishops lobbied hard against House Bill 40, issuing letters to parishioners urging them to contact their state representatives to vote against the measure. Cardinal Cupich, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki and the other bishops noted that a better use of taxpayer money in such dire fiscal times would be to fund prenatal services for the poor and child care for working mothers, as well as expand health care options for those in need.

HB 40 passed the House on a 62-55 vote on April 25 and quickly moved to the Senate for consideration. The Senate Human Services Committe scheduled a hearing for late afternoon on May 9 where an expected vote in favor of the bill is scheduled. The measure would then move to the full Senate under the sponsorship of Sen. Heather A. Steans, (D-Chicago).

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