News Local/State

Rauner Signs HB 40, Bill Expanding Abortion Coverage

Gov. Bruce Rauner

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, in an undated photo. Office Of The Governor

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed HB 40, legislation that provides state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions. 

The Republican announced his intention to sign the bill Thursday afternoon at a news conference in Chicago. Both his office the Illinois General Assembly website reported a short time later that he had signed the bill.

At the news conference, Rauner said he is personally "pro-choice," but says he listened to both sides.

"The moral argument against HB 40 is very powerful," said Rauner. "In my view, it's not debatable. It is is irrefutable. I respect it."

But ultimately, the governor said the deciding factor was one of equity.

"No woman should be forced to make a different decision than another woman made purely based on her income," said Rauner.

The General Assembly controlled by Democrats approved the measure in May, but delayed sending it to Rauner until Monday, in part because he has changed his mind about support of the plan. 

As a candidate in 2014, Rauner said he would support expanding coverage for abortions. But last April he said he opposed the idea and said the state should focus on improving the economy. 

The legislation also removes language in Illinois law that states a desire to criminalize abortion if the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Roe v Wade case legalizing the procedure is overturned. Democrats adopted that provision after President Donald Trump expressed his opposition to abortion. 

Abortion Foes Decry Rauner's Decision

Initial reaction to Rauner’s action from abortion opponents ranged from angry to diplomatic.

State Rep. Bill Mitchell of Forsyth said that Rauner’s signing of the bill was not only immoral but also financially irresponsible. In an audio clip released by the Illinois House Republicans office, Mitchell criticized the governor for adding additional abortion coverage to the state budget.

“He’s already said that this budget is out of balance,” said Mitchell, who is not seeking re-election. “I agree with him. But he’s going to pay taxpayer-funded money for abortion. I cannot tell you how disappointed I am with Gov. Rauner.”

Illinois Family Action, an arm of the Christian conservative Illinois Family Institute, reacted to the signing of HB 40 by voicing hopes that Rauner would be challenged for reelection by a more conservative opponent in the upcoming Republican primary. A commentary written by Laurie Higgins said Rauner had “stabbed conservatives in the back” and “ensure that thousands more babies will be killed in the womb … and taxpayers will pay for their deaths.”

Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti said she disagreed with the governor’s decision, but said she would focus on areas of agreement with Rauner, “enacting real reforms we need to turn Illinois around.” She called the bill “a political ploy to divide the people of Illinois,” a view also voiced by Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider.

Urbana attorney Erika Harold, a Republican candidate for state attorney general, also said she opposed HB 40, but would not let that keep her from working with Gov. Rauner on issues on which they agree, like fighting corruption. Harold also repeated her insistence that as attorney general, she would enforce all of the state’s laws.

Reaction From Abortion Rights Advocates

Meanwhile, the head of Physicians For Reproductive Health, a New York-based group that favors abortion access, praised the governor’s action.

“Governor Rauner acted in the best interest of the patients of Illinois,” said board chair, Dr. Willie Parker. “Everyone, regardless of their income or where their insurance comes from, deserves access to medical care, and this bill is an important step forward for the health, dignity, and economic security of Illinois patients.”

But other Democrats who supported HB 40 were not willing to give the governor credit for signing it.  Democratic gubernatorial candidates J.B. Pritizker and State Sen. Daniel Biss both released statements arguing that Rauner only signed the bill for political expediency.

Biss, a co-sponsor of HB 40 in the Senate, said in a statement also attributed to his running mate, Litesa Wallace, “as Rauner's past few months of flip-flopping have proven, this decision was driven by politics, not morality.”