Governor Rauner should keep his word to protect Illinois women

//Governor Rauner should keep his word to protect Illinois women

Governor Rauner should keep his word to protect Illinois women
Help us send a message to Governor Rauner to sign HB40 into law
By Brigid Leahy, Public Policy Director for Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, @PPIAction

In the years immediately following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion politicians have pushed to pass legislation designed to limit access to abortion and turn back the clock on reproductive rights. The Illinois Abortion Law, enacted in 1975, includes dangerous so-called “trigger” language which says that if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, Illinois’ policy would return to criminalizing abortion. That law was followed by discriminatory provisions in state law that deny coverage of abortion in the Medicaid and State Employee Health Insurance Programs.

As new restrictions continue to surface, Planned Parenthood is at the forefront working to repeal these draconian laws. We know what it was like for women before Roe; when thousands of women died because they had to turn to unsafe abortions, or when hospitals had separate wards for septic abortion patients. Women must maintain the right to make decisions about their own bodies and have access to qualified, compassionate providers.

Research shows that restricting Medicaid coverage for abortion services forces one in four low-income women to carry an unintended pregnancy to term. And, a woman who wants to have an abortion but is denied one is more likely to fall into poverty than a woman who is able to have an abortion.

Following the 2016 Presidential election, Donald Trump’s promises to appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court made the threat of Roe being overturned a possible reality. Reversing Roe could have direct and serious consequences in Illinois because of the “trigger” language in the current state law.  Planned Parenthood worked in close partnership with Rep. Sara Feigenholtz and other reproductive health coalition partners to modify past legislation on abortion coverage bans. Adding the repeal of “trigger” language is necessary because we cannot risk losing access to safe and legal abortion in Illinois.

In May 2017, the Illinois General Assembly passed House Bill 40 (HB 40), which promises all women access to safe and legal abortion in Illinois. But, before the bill passed the House Governor Rauner announced his intention to veto.

Governor Rauner says HB40 is “controversial”, and that is why he would veto. HB 40 guarantees that all women in Illinois will have access to safe and legal abortion no matter how much money they make or how they get their healthcare coverage. Why is that controversial?  There is speculation that Rauner could hand down an amendatory veto repealing the “trigger” language, but keeping the Medicaid and State Employee Health Insurance coverage bans in place.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois is committed to the enactment of HB40 in its entirety. Each part of HB40 is equally important in order to ensure that all women in Illinois have the ability to make personal medical decisions about their pregnancies.

Governor Rauner has said, “I am a strong advocate for women’s reproductive rights”. He should keep his word to the women of Illinois and sign HB 40 into law.  Rauner’s intention to veto HB40 came as a surprise to reproductive rights supporters throughout Illinois who thought that they could depend on Rauner to protect Illinois women.  What is more jarring than going back on his word is that Rauner’s position is out of step with every other Illinois Governor (Republican and Democrat) since 1977.  Republican Governors Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar, and George Ryan all agreed that women should be able to make their own decisions regarding their health care.

In 1977, Governor Jim Thompson vetoed the very law that imposed restrictions on Medicaid coverage for abortion. Thompson did so knowing that the General Assembly would override his veto.  In his veto message, he acknowledged that the issue was controversial, but he believed that it was his duty to stand against a policy that was harmful to the women of Illinois.

In 1998, Governor Jim Edgar vetoed HB 383 which would have rolled back a court ruling requiring Medicaid coverage of medically necessary abortions. In his veto message, Edgar acknowledged the debate on this issue, but came down in support of women.

And, in 2000, the General Assembly made another attempt to roll back the court order on coverage of medically necessary abortion. Governor George Ryan vetoed HB 709 despite having supported a “‘pro-life’ position on abortion”. He recognized that is was not the place of politicians to put themselves between a woman and her doctor.

In vetoing HB40, Governor Rauner would be siding with a conservative base instead of the Illinois women who are counting on his leadership.

Over the years, the public has come to understand the true purpose of laws like the Illinois Medicaid coverage ban.  A majority of Americans oppose these laws, and 2016 polling by Hart Research Associates shows that three in four battleground voters agree with the statement, “However we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage for it just because she’s poor.”

Americans are more supportive of reproductive rights than ever before, cutting off access to safe and legal abortion is out of step with what Americans want. In a recent Pew Research Center poll, about seven in ten Americans said that they oppose Roe being overturned.

Illinois is surrounded by states with extreme restrictions on abortion access. We must make sure that Illinois remains an oasis for access to reproductive health care no matter what happens with the Supreme Court. Neighboring states could completely cut off access to safe and legal abortion should Roe be overturned.

Moreover, we must make sure that every woman, whether she has private or government-funded health insurance, has coverage for a full range of pregnancy-related care, including abortion. However we feel about abortion, politicians shouldn’t deny a woman access because of how much money she makes or where she lives.

Join the fight for HB 40 by signing up at!  Join a canvass, phone bank, or a postcard party to make sure Governor Rauner knows that he must sign HB 40 into law!