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Rauner Signs Bill That Expands Abortion Coverage & Guarantees Procedure Stays Legal

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 28, 2017 10:33PM

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday signed into law a bill that guarantees abortion will remain legal in Illinois even in the event that the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The two-pronged bill also expands coverage for the procedure to istate employees and Medicaid recipients.

Rauner's decision follows a stretch of uncertainty and heightened speculation as to whether he would sign the legislation, known officially as House Bill 40, and hefty pressure from both sides of the aisle to swing him their direction.

"I personally am pro-choice. I always have been, A woman should have the right to decide," Rauner said on Thursday afternoon, according to the Sun-Times, adding that he attempted "to find common ground" but "passions run too deep" on the issue.

Not surprisingly, Rauner's decision attracted praise from pro-choice wings and women's-health advocates, while drawing criticism—some of it quite scathing—from opponents.

Here in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered thanks to Rauner "for standing up for choice, reproductive rights and equitable access to health care for all."

"Women’s access to quality, affordable health care should always remain above partisan politics. The Governor’s decision to sign HB40 into law was a significant step forward for women’s health," Emanuel said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood also issued a statement of gratitude. "With access to abortion under attack at the federal level, it is essential to make sure that women will have access to safe and legal abortion in Illinois," said Planned Parenthood of Illinois President and CEO Jennifer Welch in a release.

Welch added:

"HB 40 ends the discriminatory practice of denying women coverage based on how much money she makes or where she works. Whether she has private or government-funded health insurance, every woman should have access to a full range of pregnancy-related care, including abortion."

Some members of Rauner's party, however, were incensed. Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) delivered a notably full-throated rebuke of the governor's decision, going so far as to say "I can no longer support [Rauner]," blasting an "inability to keep his word and his commitments."

"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," Breen added.

Breen added in his statement:

"I’ve heard Rauner promise the people of Illinois that he had “no social agenda” and as such firmly commit to legislators, the public, and even to Chicago’s Cardinal, Blaise Cupich, that he would veto taxpayer funding of abortions. But he has now broken that commitment, signing a bill that puts taxpayers on the hook to pay for an expected 20,000-30,000 aborted lives per year. And without any source of funding, in the throes of an unbalanced budget. Now, I’ve come to expect politicians to shade the truth, but what’s clear today is that Rauner’s promises were just flat out lies."

Cardinal Blase Cupich also expressed his disappointment on Thursday afternoon, calling the bill "very disturbing."

Rauner vowed in April to veto HB40 in the face of increasing conservative pressure. Prior to that pledge, Rauner had appeared to be more aligned with a pro-choice position. He, his wife, Diana, and the Rauner Family Foundation had in fact donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Planned Parenthood; and in 2014 Rauner gave almost uniformly pro-choice answers to a Personal PAC election questionnaire.

Rauner had signaled that he could use an amendatory veto to nix the insurance-coverage aspect of the bill but support the "trigger" provision. But this month he said he was speaking with both reps on sides in order to again go over the legislation.

The responses from Democratic gubernatorial candidates meanwhile were a mix of measured affirmation and criticism of what they characterized as political gamesmanship.

JB Pritzker fired back in a statement:

“Let’s be clear: Bruce Rauner threatened to veto HB 40 and only got around to doing the right thing after an organized advertising and grassroots campaign. Today’s announcement does not change the fact that Bruce Rauner’s only sense of morality is whatever panders best to voters. Illinois women deserve a relentless advocate in the fight to protect their rights - and that’s exactly what I’ll be as governor."

State Sen. Daneil Biss thanked Rauner while also castigating his "flip-flopping":

"Thanks to the tireless advocacy of people in every corner of the state, HB40 will finally become law. This is an overdue protection for Illinois women—we were proud advocates in the legislature, and we are relieved that a woman’s right to choose will not be determined by her economic background.

But as Rauner's past few months of flip-flopping have proven, this decision was driven by politics, not morality. We need a governor with a proven record of fighting economic inequality and standing up for reproductive rights—someone who won't play games with women’s health care."

And Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) said in a statement:

“I think it is a good thing that Gov. Rauner is signing H.B. 40. It never makes sense to use legislation to attack a group of people. I laud him for doing so, and we should thank him for finally doing the right thing, despite his first attempts to go back on his campaign promises. He’s flip flopped on this, and for that he’ll have to answer to his base and to his wealthy donors who are pushing him to enact their extreme right-wing social agenda."