CHICAGO, Ill. (WNS) – Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, signed a bill on Sept. 28 approving taxpayer funding for abortion and protecting state abortion provisions in the event the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturns Roe v. Wade.
“I personally am pro-choice,” Rauner said at a news conference before signing the bill. “I always have been. And I made no qualms about that when I was elected governor. And I have not and never will change my views. I personally believe that a woman should have, must have, the right to decide what goes on in her own body.”
Rauner’s decision to sign HB 40 came as a surprise to sponsors and opponents alike. In April, his office issued a statement in support of “reproductive rights under current Illinois law” but against the bill.
HB 40 removes language from existing Illinois law that blocked taxpayer funding for abortion through state Medicaid funds and state employee health insurance. It also strikes down language that defined an unborn child as “a human being from the time of conception” and entitled to legal protection. It also takes out a provision that effectively would ban abortion if the U.S Supreme Court ever reverses its 1973 decision to legalize the practice.
Before signing the bill, Rauner met with Republican leaders, as well as opponents and proponents of the bill, and said “we are assessing” what to do. Proponents of the bill urged him to stick with his pro-abortion views, while Republican lawmakers, Illinois Right to Life, and other pro-life groups urged the governor to maintain his initial stance against the bill.
“If Gov. Bruce Rauner signs HB 40, he will be publicly repudiated by pro-lifers throughout the entire state of Illinois,” Rosemary Hackett, president of Illinois Right to Life, said in a statement released prior to the bill’s signing last week. “He promised to veto this horrendous legislation, which would force all Illinois taxpayers to pay for free abortions for those on Medicaid and state employees, which can be done through all nine months of pregnancy and for any reason—even when the unborn child can feel pain and survive outside the womb.”
Pro-life Republicans decried Rauner’s decision to sign the bill. State House Republican Floor Leader Peter Breen said it betrayed the party’s trust and portends a primary challenge for Rauner.
“It’s not that hard to get on the ballot to be governor when you’ve got this kind of groundswell of opposition that I believe is going to be mounting here in the next few days,” Breen told reporters. “When you look someone in the eye and shake their hand and tell them you’re going to do something and then you reverse course, that’s a broken commitment.”
While the 1977 Hyde Amendment bans federal Medicaid funds from covering abortion—except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life—states can use Medicaid funds for the procedure. Seventeen states, including Illinois, have opted to do so.
According to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the bill will cost the state $1.8 million a year.
In June, Delaware Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, also signed a bill ensuring legal abortion throughout pregnancy if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, while Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, also a Democrat, approved a bill in August to mandate insurance plans cover abortion and contraception.