Will Illinois Lawmakers Expand Abortion Care Access in 2017?

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Will Illinois Lawmakers Expand Abortion Care Access in 2017?

Michelle D. Anderson

Under current Illinois law, pregnant people who receive Medicaid benefits can only obtain abortion care under narrow exceptions such as rape, incest, or when their life is at risk.

Illinois legislators could pass a 2-year-old bill that would extend full abortion coverage to people with low incomes before the General Assembly convenes on January 11.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) indicated last month she would make one last push for HB 4013 during the assembly’s lame duck session, reported WTTW, a PBS affiliate.

The two-day session begins January 9. Democrats hold large majorities in both chambers of the Illinois legislature.

Introduced in February 2015, the legislation would expand abortion care coverage for recipients of the state’s Medicaid program and some state health insurance plans. Under Illinois law, pregnant people who receive Medicaid benefits can only obtain abortion care under narrow exceptions such as rape, incest, or when their life is at risk.

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Feigenholtz said President-elect Trump’s anti-choice statements have made the proposed bill increasingly important, WTTW reported.

Feigenholtz told WTTW she may not have enough support for a veto-proof majority, so the Medicaid coverage bill would require the support of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Catherine Kelly, a spokesperson for Rauner, told Rewire in an email that the office had no comment when asked whether the governor would veto the bill.

Rauner has demonstrated willingness to back some abortion-related legislation that other GOP governors have vigorously opposed. Diana Rauner, the governor’s wife, told Chicago Magazine in 2014 that her husband is pro-choice but supports measures that force people younger than 18 to seek parental permission before receiving abortion care.

Rauner last year signed an amendment to the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act that requires medical personnel to provide patients with information about their medical circumstances and treatment options when the professional refuses services on religious grounds.

The anti-choice group Alliance Defending Freedom subsequently filed a lawsuit, and in December received a preliminary injunction in its favor, the Chicago Tribune reported. The law had been scheduled to take effect January 1.

State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) panned the Medicaid abortion care expansion measure and implied it would violate Illinois law, the Herald-Review reported. Illinois law parallels the federal Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal tax dollars from being used to cover abortion.

Brigid Leahy, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Herald-Review that Illinois’ Medicaid program could cover abortion care if the state refrains from using federal tax dollars. Medicaid is a joint state-federal program.

Leahy said the pro-choice bill’s proponents would reintroduce the measure if it fails to become law this month.