House Passes ‘Abortion Bill,’ Puts Governor in Political Pickle

Illinois’ abortion rights movement is working to ensure that even if President Donald Trump’s appointees change the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court enough that the justices overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion remains legal in Illinois.

Their effort to pass legislation to that effect has a bonus for Democrats: It’s a political thorn in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign.

In addition to removing the Roe v. Wade “trigger provision” by de-linking from the feds, the legislation – House Bill 40 –would also allow both Medicaid recipients and state employees to use government health insurance to cover an abortion. 

The Illinois House spent two hours debating the measure.

“To those who say, ‘You know, we believe in a woman’s right to choose, we believe they have the right to make their own choices,’ and all of that—that’s fine. We’re not saying you don’t have abortion with your bill. We’re just saying we don’t want to pay for it, the state’s broke,” Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, said.

“We’ve heard testimony today that it cost essentially $60 million for this program that can better meet the needs of women who need help in other ways, and yet your emotional debate here is totally disregarding the taxpayers and what they want. Fifty-eight percent of people, even those who are pro-choice, are opposed to taxpayer-funding of abortion. This is a bad bill at a bad time,” Ives said.

“For my colleagues who have chosen to invoke references to slavery, Dred Scott and Emmett Till, none of these examples are analogous to what we’re saying today with HB 40 … all of these examples happen when people empower and abuse that status and decide they have the right to decide what they will do with someone else’s body,” said Rep. Juliana Stratton, D-Chicago.

Ultimately, the measure passed the House on a vote of 62 to 55 – not enough to override the veto the governor has promised. He says it’s too divisive an issue, a distraction from bigger issues.

For one, Rauner in his first run for office did alright with moderate, suburban women (it’s also worth a mention that Illinois easily voted for Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential race), but many may feel frustrated – deceived even – by his promise to veto the so-called “abortion bill.”

He campaigned, with his wife Diana Rauner – a Democrat – vouching on his behalf – that he has no social agenda.

The Rauners have backed that up financially too: They were recently listed as $50,000 sponsors of a Planned Parenthood fundraiser.

Rauner’s spokeswoman says the couple has donated nearly $1.6 million to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU’s Reproductive Rights.

On the other hand, Rauner is under intense pressure from his Republican base to come out against this measure; he can’t afford to lose conservatives as he faces re-election.

Rauner’s camp is pushing back.

He’s got surrogates – like Department of Family Services Director Felicia Norwood, former Planned Parenthood Vice Chair and – supporting Rauner as a women’s rights champion.

“It is important to remember the facts. House Bill 40 will do nothing to change the current protections for abortion in Illinois, and all abortions currently covered will continued to be covered, if the bill is not passed or is vetoed,” Norwood said in a video provided by Rauner’s office.

Norwood says Rauner does not, however, support any plans to defund Planned Parenthood, and she noted that he’s signed measures expanding contraceptive coverage.

The House voted on a day that hundreds of women descended on Springfield as part of a women’s march to lobby for this bill and others, like mandatory sick leave for workers, and equal pay. 

“There will be a record vote which will be available to all of you, you can look up how people voted. It will be a clear litmus test to who supports reproductive rights, who does not. That will happen sometime this afternoon. I think that you’re going to be very, very happy,” House Speaker Michael Madigan said during a rally.

Democratic candidates for governor likewise seized on the opportunity for podium time in front of activated potential supporters and voters.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky


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