News Local/State

Abortion Legislation Puts Gov. Rauner In Political Bind

The Illinois Women March on Springfield was held on April 25, 2017 at the state Capitol.

The Illinois Women March on Springfield was held on April 25, 2017 at the state Capitol. Those in attendance wanted to raise awareness of women's rights and demand support for HB 40--which was up for a vote on the House floor on the same day. Daisy Contreras/NPR Illinois

A measure that would allow taxpayer funding for abortions has yet to reach Governor Bruce Rauner's desk. Supporters want him to publicly declare his support before taking any further steps. 

The General Assembly approved HB40 in May. And under normal circumstances, it would have been immediately sent to the governor. But sponsors decided to hold it in response to Governor Rauner's remarks in April, when he mentioned plans to veto it. 

Yet on a recent appearance on the public radio program, The 21st, the governor was vague when asked about his current stance on the bill.

"That bill hasn't even been sent to my desk. They're playing political games," he said.

Meanwhile the House sponsor, Representative Sara Feigenholtz—a Democrat from Chicago—points the finger at Rauner. 

"I think he's playing games with this bill. . . All he has to do now is say, publicly, that he—after all these conversations—has changed his mind and he better understands what women go through and what's at stake."

Advocates have rallied over the last few months to ensure the governor's signature. Those in this group include Personal PAC, a group dedicated to getting pro-choice candidates elected into office. Governor Rauner ran as a pro-choice candidate and the group wants to hold him accountable to his campaign promises. They are hopeful the governor has now heard from enough women across the state to change his earlier intentions to veto HB40. 

But Ralph Rivera, lobbyist for the conservative Illinois Right to Life, says he doesn't think those efforts have made a difference. 

"Does that mean he's changed his mind? No. That's what a governor or an elected official would do, listen to both sides," Rivera says.

Personal PAC's President and CEO, Terry Cosgrove, says he is aware Oak Park Democratic Senator Don Harmon will be "assessing the situation and is figuring out what he's going to do" with the bill over the next few days. Sen. Harmon placed a motion to reconsider on HB4—allowing him to hold the measure until finding an adequate time to send it to the governor. 

The bill puts Rauner in a tricky position as he prepares to seek re-election—one where a veto would anger those who favor abortion rights, while signing it could alienate conservatives who are opposed.