Friday, September 29, 2017

Gov. Rauner says he will sign controversial measure to allow taxpayer-funded abortions

Gov. Rauner says he will sign controversial measure to allow taxpayer-funded abortions, Metamora Herald


By Dan McCaleb and Greg Bishop | Illinois News Network


      Bucking conservatives from his own party, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner intends to sign into law a controversial measure that will allow taxpayer funds to be used for elective abortions through Medicaid and state employees' health insurance. 
      Rauner announced his decision Thursday at a news conference at the Thompson Center in Chicago, less than a week after legislative Democrats sent House Bill 40 to his desk.

      "I personally believe that a woman must have the right to decide what goes on in her own body," Rauner said. "I also believe that no woman should be forced to make a different decision than another woman can make purely based on her income."

      His decision angered many in the Republican Party who urged the governor to hold true to a promise he made in the spring that he would veto it because it would expand the use of taxpayer dollars to fund elective abortions.

      “Gov. Rauner’s decision to sign legislation that will now force taxpayers to pay for all abortions, for any reason, for those on Medicaid and who are state employees, is beyond disappointing," State Senate Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said. “This is a significant change from a national policy that taxpayer dollars do not fund elective abortions. Illinois is still facing a financial crisis. Not only can taxpayers not afford this, but polls show that the majority of people in our country don’t want their tax dollars funding abortion."

      In recent weeks, Rauner, who is pro-choice, backed away from his April promise to veto HB40, saying it was a complex issue and he could understand arguments from both sides. He spent much of this week receiving feedback on the measure from a variety of individuals and groups.

      Rauner made the announcement surrounded by women, including former Lt. Governor Corinne Wood, who advocates for women’s reproductive issues.

      “We have a governor who is standing up for the right thing for all women of Illinois,” Wood said. “He’s standing up for women’s health. He’s standing up to putting an end to this partisan bickering. He’s standing up to moving forward instead of moving backwards.”

      With his signature, Rauner will become the first U.S. governor in the country to sign legislation that allows taxpayer funding for elective abortions. Up to now, abortion was covered under Medicaid in Illinois if the mother's health or life was at risk or in the case of rape or incest.

      Democrats urged him to sign it to expand Medicaid coverage to allow for elective abortions.

      With Donald Trump in the White House, Democrats also are concerned that a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion federally. HB40 also eliminates a "trigger law" put into place that makes abortion illegal in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

      "We thank Gov. Rauner for standing up for the countless Illinois residents who have been denied abortion coverage for far too long," Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, said. "But he did not get there alone. This victory would not have been possible without the hard work of our partners on the ground, the ACLU of Illinois and All* Above All, along with activists who were relentless in their efforts to press the governor and build local support for this bill.

      Rauner's announcement could shake up next year's gubernatorial election. While a number of Democrats have lined up to seek their party's nomination for a run against Rauner in 2018, conservatives now might seek another Republican to face him in a GOP primary.

      "Bruce Rauner is a failed governor who lied to the people of Illinois," Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said.

      In a long statement about Rauner's tenure as governor,  state Rep. Peter Breen, the House Republican Floor Leader, criticized the governor on a number of fronts.

      "In the face of overwhelming evidence of Rauner’s inability to competently administer the Illinois government, inability to stand up to [House Speaker] Mike Madigan effectively, and inability to keep his word and his commitments, I can no longer support him," Breen said. "And whether or not they are able to agree publicly, I know hundreds of elected Republicans, along with hundreds of thousands of Republican voters, who feel the same way I do.”

      House Bill 40 passed both chambers with simple majorities in mid-May. No Republicans voted for it. 

      After it passed, the bill was blocked from advancing to the governor’s office by Senate Democrats. They said they were waiting for the governor to show he’s ready to sign the bill. That hold was lifted Monday, and the bill was sent to the governor.

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