Illinois GOP Governor Signs Landmark Pro-Choice Legislation (Updated)

Sixty-four percent of voters in an April poll said the governor should "act to protect the reproductive health care" for people in Illinois.

Rauner and his wife were listed as $50,000 sponsors of a Planned Parenthood of Illinois fundraiser in April.  Scott Olson/Getty Images

UPDATE, December 1, 10:10 a.m.: Abortion rights opponents on Thursday filed a lawsuit to block HB 40, Reuters reports. The lawsuit asks a judge to block funding for the law.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) said Thursday that he would sign legislation expanding insurance coverage of abortion care and protecting the right to choose as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

The legislation, HB 40, strikes down provisions of an Illinois “trigger law,” which would outlaw the medical procedure in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. HB 40 permits coverage of abortion in state health plans and Medicaid. State law today prohibits public insurance coverage of abortion care, induced miscarriage, or “induced premature birth,” except in limited circumstances.

“I personally am pro-choice, I always have been,” Rauner said in a Thursday press conference. “I personally believe a woman should have, must have, the right to decide what goes on in her own body. I also believe that no woman should be forced to make a different decision than another woman could make purely based on her income.”

The law strikes so-called personhood language found in the Illinois Abortion Act, which was passed two years after Roe v. Wade. The act said an “unborn child is a human being from the time of conception and is, therefore, a legal person.”

Rauner made the announcement three days after HB 40 was sent to his desk, but after months of apparent waffling amid pressure from anti-choice and religious groups. Democrats control both of the state’s legislative chambers, but lack the three-fifths majority needed to override a gubernatorial veto.

Referring to abortion funding restrictions, Brittany Mostiller, executive director of Chicago Abortion Fund, said at the news conference, “A right in theory only is no right at all.”

“That’s why it’s so important to lift the ban on insurance coverage for low-income people in our state,” Mostiller said. “When Medicaid insurance doesn’t cover abortion, it forces women to make impossible decisions and endure added delays, harm, and stigma.”

Sources told the Chicago Sun-Times that the governor and first lady Diana Rauner had met with prominent Republicans on Wednesday.

“With President Donald Trump committed to eviscerating Roe with likely one to two more court appointments, removing that trigger provision today is critical,” the bill’s chief backers, state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), and Terry Cosgrove, president and CEO of Personal PAC, wrote in a recent op-ed in Crain’s Chicago Business.

Rauner had called the insurance provision “very controversial,” backtracking from his statement of support for abortion access.

Rauner, while campaigning for governor in 2013, said, “I support a woman’s ability to decide early in a pregnancy,” with the caveat that he’d back policies to “find common ground to make abortion rare,” as Crain’s Chicago Business reported. Rauner and his wife were listed as $50,000 sponsors of a Planned Parenthood of Illinois fundraiser in April

Rauner’s apparent reversal of his support for abortion access had led the pro-choice group Personal PAC to release a questionnaire in which Rauner, as a gubernatorial candidate, wrote: “I would support a legislative effort to reverse that law,” referring to the Medicaid funding ban, as the Chicago Tribune reported.

Sixty-four percent of voters in an April poll said the governor should “act to protect the reproductive health care of ALL women in Illinois.”