Gov. Bruce Rauner is at risk of alienating not only every Republican in the Legislature but now the entire Republican Congressional Delegation if he signs HB40, the bill that would expand public funding of abortion in Illinois.
Every House and Senate Republican voted against the bill, and all seven Republican representatives in the U.S. House recently sent Rauner a letter urging him to veto the legislation “that wrongfully requires taxpayers to participate in funding abortions.”
In April, when the bill cleared the House, Rauner promised to veto it because the cost of expanding public funding of abortions would further strain the already fiscally struggling state. But recent news reports indicate he might sign it, and his own comments after receiving the legislation suggest a wavering.
Gov. Bruce Rauner
"I am personally pro-choice, but I respect the moral arguments and the debate on the other side, and I am listening, and we will make a decision in the near future," Rauner told a reporter from the Chicago Tribune on Monday during a visit to a charter school in Rockford.
HB40 would expand coverage for Medicaid recipients and those under state employee health insurance even for late-term abortions. It would also ensure that abortion remains legal in Illinois if the U.S. Supreme Court rolls back Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
The Democratically controlled Senate approved the bill in May, but in a maneuver that political observers say was timed to impact the March gubernatorial primary, held onto it until Monday.
At the urging of David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, the Republican delegation quickly penned the letter to Rauner. It was signed by Peter Roskam, John Shimkus, Randy Hultgren, Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis, Mike Bost and Darin LaHood.
The letter argues that under the bill “there is no cap on the number of abortions that could be covered under Medicaid and no cap on the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on these procedures. Current estimates of the costs to the State range from $1.8 million to $21 million. While Illinois faces a financial crisis, it is unwise to place such a burden on the taxpayer."
It also says that “Illinois policy has been consistent with federal protections such as the Hyde Amendment which prohibits federal funding for abortion. The Hyde Amendment saves lives – at least 2 million people are alive today thanks to 40 years of Hyde Amendment protections. This bill is an egregious step away from these protections… .”
The filing deadline for the March 20, 2018 gubernatorial primary is Dec 1. As of publication, Rauner’s only primary opponent is TV personality William Kelly, a perennial candidate who has lost the three previous races he entered. But if Rauner signs the legislation, it could invite a serious primary challenge. Some powerful conservative Republicans reportedly have already threatened the governor with such a challenge.
Rauner has 60 days to act on the bill.