Anti-Abortion Forces File Lawsuit Against Abortion Funding Law

The Sanagamon County Courthouse in Springfield, Illinois.

The Sangamon County Courthouse in Springfield, where the lawsuit against HB 40 will get its first hearing on Dec. 7.

Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

A group of state lawmakers and anti-abortion groups filed suit against the state of Illinois Thursday. The Thomas More Society filed the suit, which is aimed at blocking a new law that will allow state money to pay for some abortions.

The law, known by its legislative number, HB 40, extends coverage for abortion to the Medicaid program, and to health insurance plans for state and university employees.

The lawsuit argues the legislature did not properly approve money for this purpose.

Peter Breen was an anti-abortion lawyer before becoming a Republican state representative in 2015. He wrote the legal brief.

“Should we be funding, in the next year, those elective abortions that are so controversial, when we don’t have money to fund core government services?” argued Breen.

Breen said HB 40 is illegal because there is no money in the state budget to cover funding for abortions, and because lawmakers held onto the legislation so long that the Constitution bars it from taking effect earlier than June 1, 2018, which is the start of the next Illinois fiscal year. HB 40 is scheduled to take effect six months earlier, on January 1, 2018.

“So the purpose of our lawsuit is to say look … you’ve not put any money aside for this year.… And so it can’t happen this fiscal year, at least to the end of June," said Breen.

The office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says it will defend the law in court, but otherwise declined to comment.

A hearing is set for Thursday, December 7th, at the Sangamon County Courthouse in Springfield.

Governor Bruce Rauner signed HB 40 on September 28, an action that angered many Republicans, including State Rep. Jeanne Ives, who is challenging the incumbent in the March 20 gubernatorial primary.

Commenting on the lawsuit, Rauner, who has described himself as pro-choice said there are strong views on the issue of abortion.

“I respect both sides”, said Rauner. “I really personally don’t have a social issue agenda. My agenda is on more jobs, lower taxes, better schools and term limits. That is where I spend my time and I hope there is good resolution one way or another on it.”

Democrats were quick to criticize the lawsuit.

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), HB 40's chief sponsor in the Illinois Senate, said the lawsuit is really about keeping women from making "their own reproductive decisions.” She says those choices "should not be limited to the wealthy.”

Gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker said in a statement that the lawsuit shows that “the GOP is committed to rolling back the clock on women’s rights.”

Democratic state attorney general candidate Jesse Ruiz called HB 40 “an important milestone in the protection of a woman’s right to choose” and voiced confidence that both incumbent Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the courts would work to overturn “this extreme attempt to endanger women’s health in Illinois.”

Story source: WILL