The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Gov. Rauner To Veto Abortion-Rights Bill Amid Ultimatum From Conservative Pols

By Stephen Gossett in News on Apr 17, 2017 4:03PM

After spending several days on the road in a not-a-campaign-trip campaign trip, Rauner threw red meat to the right wing of his GOP base by throwing a debilitating wrench in the works for expanded reproductive rights.

Rauner vowed to veto a bill that would offer abortion coverage for Medicaid recipients and state employees, in a move that was reportedly in part ushered along by a hard push from conservative legislators in Springfield. The bill would have also scrapped the state's controversial "trigger law," which, although its efficacy is a point of debate, would make abortions illegal if Roe vs Wade were to be overturned by the Supreme Court.

Even as Rauner looks to shore up downstate, conservative voters, it was a surprising—and, for reproductive-rights advocates, deeply disconcerting—turn from a nominally pro-choice governor. Here was the official line, from Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis: "Governor Rauner is committed to protecting women's reproductive rights under current Illinois law. However, recognizing the sharp divisions of opinion of taxpayer funding of abortion, he does not support HB40."

One reason for the about face appears to have been a concerted effort from several right-leaning lawmakers in the General Assembly. Politico reports that some 20 GOP lawmakers spoke with Rauner over the last several weeks and gave him an either-or: "if you want us to support you in your quest for reelection, veto HB40. The meeting came at the urging of social conservatives who wanted a discussion with the governor about his intentions."

Sen. Kyle McCarter told Politico:

"[Social conservatives] asked to meet with him and communicated how important this was and how this would be an indication of whether he was going to support a lot of people who got him elected the first time. I think that’s a fair proposition. I mean, the message has been delivered very clearly. I hope he’s listening to that. The social conservatives have not asked for much. We tolerated a lot and this is one thing that we do expect in order to support the governor in the next election.”

Before the "taxpayer-funded" bridge too far (and/or concerted pressure from the right), Rauner had shown a degree of pro-choice support, including donations of private money to abortion-protection organizations.

Tina Sfondeles, who first reported the story, noted in the Sun-Times:

"Both Rauner and his wife, Diana, have contributed thousands of dollars to Planned Parenthood. And the Rauner Family Foundation has contributed $510,000 — prior to his campaign — to the American Civil Liberties Union’s Roger Baldwin Foundation, which aims to protect abortion-rights laws. He was also labeled as a Republican “with a clear, consistent position on reproductive rights,” according to Personal Choice for Illinois, which placed a newspaper ad in October 2014 to thank Rauner and former Gov. Pat Quinn for their support of reproductive rights. The ad was paid in part by Diana Rauner."

As a self-styled moderate seeking re-election in an overall blue state, we've seen this both-ways approach in recent months from Rauner. Recall how he twisted into knots over how to, or even whether to, speak about Donald Trump in the weeks before the November election. But this one carries a particularly strong blow, for the women dependent on government insurance for health care that the bill, sponsored by Representative Sara Feigenholtz, sought to protect, and legislators' future efforts.

On the challenger side, Democratic candidates for governor J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy and State Sen. Daniel Biss all blasted Rauner's veto pledge.

“Bruce Rauner lied on the campaign trail when he said he didn’t have a social agenda — on the contrary, he’s now supporting President Trump’s dangerous efforts to take Illinois women back to the dangerous days before Roe v. Wade was the law of the land," Biss said in a statement.