Illinois House narrowly OKs abortion-rights bill


Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (TNS)

Illinois House members Tuesday approved a bill that would expand taxpayer-funded abortions and protect abortion rights in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, the vote fell far short of what will be needed if Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner follows through on a promise to veto the bill if it reaches his desk. The House vote was 62-55. A veto override requires 71 votes.

All Springfield-area lawmakers voted against the measure.


The House, which is controlled by the Democrats, spent more than two hours debating the controversial bill that allows women whose health care costs are covered by Medicaid or state employee health insurance to use that coverage for an abortion. The bill also removes a “trigger provision” in state law that would make abortion illegal in Illinois if the landmark Roe v. Wade decision is overturned by the now-conservative-leaning court.

Rauner, who expressed support for the bill’s provisions in a candidate questionnaire when he ran for governor in 2016, has said his objection to it is over using taxpayer money to pay for abortions. He says he recognizes there are “sharp divisions” over that issue among voters.

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services estimates the bill could cost the state $1.8 million a year, while Rauner’s budget office said an accurate cost estimate could not be made. It said, however, that it opens the state up for “significant cost liabilities to incur.”

Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, said he believes the actual cost will be $60 million.

“Where does the money come from? What other services will suffer?” Breen said. “We can’t afford a $60 million hit to our Medicaid system.”

The bill’s principal sponsor, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, has questioned if even the $1.8 million figure from DHFS is too high. She also said access to abortion services shouldn’t be determined by whether a woman has private health insurance rather than being covered by Medicaid or state employee health insurance.

“This bill is about fairness. This bill is about equality,” she said.


“I fundamentally believe abortion should be a woman’s private decision and that decision should not be impeded by government,” added Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago. “It should be available to all women regardless of income.”

Rep. Patricia Bellock, R-Hinsdale, said the bill is unfair because many taxpayers are opposed to abortion.

“For 36 years, Illinois has had the policy not to use taxpayer funds to pay for abortions,” she said. “This bill is asking those people to pay for abortions.”

“I’m anti-war. My tax dollars fund war,” countered Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago.

Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, chided abortion opponents who also have voted against funding state programs to help needy children.

“How come you don’t care about the viability of someone after they are born?” he asked.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which is also controlled by the Democrats and has traditionally been more liberal than the House on abortion-related legislation. If the Senate approves the measure, it would go to Rauner.

Rauner’s statement that he would veto the bill was seen as an effort to shore up his support with the conservative wing of the Republican Party. At the same time, it could cost him support in his re-election bid next year with moderate Republican women.

Before the House vote, the Rauner administration released a three-minute video of some of this top aides defending Rauner’s record on women’s issues.



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