Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a rare Republican politician who supports a woman’s right to choose, on Thursday signed a bill that would expand Medicaid and certain state health insurance plans to cover abortion, and would ensure abortion remains legal in Illinois in the event that Roe v. Wade were overturned.
“I have not and never will change my views,” Rauner said at a press conference. “I personally believe that a woman should have, must have the right to decide what goes on in her own body, that a woman should have the right to decide her health care.”
“I also believe that no woman should be forced to make a different decision than another woman would make purely based on her income,” he said. “I believe that a woman living with limited financial means should not be put in the position where she has to choose something different than a woman of higher income would be able to choose.”
Illinois is one of a handful of states across the country with a so-called “trigger law,” a 40-year-old provision that would make abortion illegal in all cases except immediate threat to the life of the mother if Roe v. Wade were repealed. In a Republican-controlled Congress and Trump presidency, the threat of an all-out abortion reversal has perhaps never been greater.
“If Roe v. Wade were overturned ... women would not stop having abortions. They would resort to the back alleys and have terrible outcomes. History will repeat itself. There will be sepsis wards in hospitals where women are dying because of bad, illegal abortions, and we don’t want that,” State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, chief House sponsor of the bill, told Chicago Tonight last December. “What this bill means is that the state of Illinois and the Illinois Legislature is making a statement proactively that we are a safe state for a woman’s right to choose. We want Illinois to be a state where abortion services are safe and legal.”
Rauner has gone back and forth on the bill. In April, he threatened to veto the bill over the “sharp divisions of opinion of taxpayer funding of abortion. However, in a response to a survey by reproductive rights political action committee Personal PA, he stated that he “would support a legislative effort to reverse” the Illinois law “that restricts abortion coverage under the state Medicaid plan and state employees’ health insurance because I believe it unfairly restricts access based on income.”
The bill passed in the state legislature in May, but did not reach Rauner’s desk until Monday, when he told reporters that he was undecided. “I am personally pro-choice,” he said, “but I respect the moral arguments and the debate on the other side and I am listening and we will make a decision in the near future.”
Illinois Republicans expressed disappointment, with State Rep. David McSweeney calling him a “failed governor who lied to the people of Illinois.”
“Taxpayers should not be forced to fund something as controversial and culturally divisive as abortions,” said Republican State Sen. Dan McConchie. “Likewise, there is no good reason for taxpayers to be on the hook for someone else’s personal decision.”