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Rauner Signs Controversial Bill Regarding Abortion

State of Illinois
Gov. Bruce Rauner announces at a Chicago news conference that he will sign the controversial House Bill 40, which allows use of public funds for abortions.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed the controversial House Bill 40, which allows the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions. He announced his intention at a news conference Thursday in Chicago and signed the bill later that day.

There have been questions about which direction the governor would take, since he had campaigned as a pro-choice candidate but had announced in April that, because of “sharp divisions of opinion,” he would veto the bill which was then working its way through the legislature.

Rauner spoke hesitantly at the news conference, indicating the internal conflict he faced in making his decision.

“HB 40 addresses many very difficult, very emotional issues,” he said. “The passions, the emotions, the sentiments on both sides of these issues are very powerful. I respect them very much as a person, and as governor it is my job to do the very best I can to represent all the people of Illinois on these difficult issues.”

He acknowledged the concerns of opponents and supporters of the bill:

“The moral argument against HB40 is very powerful. In my view, it’s not debatable. It is irrefutable. I respect it very much. And through my life I have respected that view,” he said. “On the other side of this issue, the arguments that position for women’s rights, women’s equality, women’s health are very powerful. I support them.”

Rauner expressed strong support for a woman’s “right to choose, make this decision herself, in conjunction with those she seeks counsel from – her physician, her family, her religious leaders …”

He emphasized that a woman’s economic circumstances should not affect the options that are available to her. “I believe that a woman living with limited financial means should not be put in a position where she has to choose something different than a woman of higher income would be able to choose,” he said.

Former Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood

The governor received support from several women who took part in the news conference, beginning with former Lieut. Gov. Corinne Wood, who served with Gov. George Ryan from 1999 to 2003.

"Today is so important because we have a governor who is standing up for the right thing for all women of Illinois," she said. "He’s standing up for women’s health; he’s standing up for putting an end to all this partisan bickering; he’s making sure that we’re moving forward as opposed to moving backward."

The Catholic Conference of Illinois, which serves as the public policy voice for the six dioceses in the state, issued a statement deploring Rauner’s decision.

“We are deeply disturbed that Governor Rauner has broken his word and firm public promise to veto HB 40,” the statement said. “Governor Rauner, together with the legislators who voted for this misguided legislation, will now force Illinois taxpayers to pay for the taking of human life, in this case that of a defenseless child in the womb.”

State Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider put a political twist on his objections.

“I am disappointed in the Governor’s decision to sign HB40, as the Illinois Republican Party opposes taxpayer-funded abortions,” he said in a statement. “While I am frustrated and saddened, I also know that Speaker Madigan and the Democrats are trying to use this issue to divide our party and elect a Madigan-backed candidate for governor.

"There is no daylight between Governor Rauner and the Illinois Republican Party, and we will continue working hard to ensure his reelection and finally defeat Mike Madigan once and for all.”

Lt. Governor Evenlyn Sanguinetti voiced her opposition to Rauner's decision: 

“As a pro-life Republican, I disagree with the Governor’s decision to sign HB 40. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for a 15-year-old refugee who chose to have me and keep me. “I realize this bill is a political ploy to divide the people of Illinois. While I disagree with the Governor on this, we must focus on our areas of agreement – enacting real reforms we need to turn Illinois around.”

The General Assembly approved HB40 in May and, under normal circumstances, it would have been sent to the governor immediately. But one of the sponsors -- State Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park -- placed a procedural hold on the bill, allowing it to be retained in the legislature.

The bill removes prohibitions against using public funds to pay for abortions and certain other provisions concerning abortion restrictions. It allows the Department of Human Services to make grants to appropriate agencies that offer abortion counseling or services.

It also notes that “it is the intention of the General Assembly to reasonably regulate abortion in conformance with the legal standards set forth in the decisions of the United States Supreme Court of January 22, 1973,” or Roe vs. Wade.

The law will take effect January 1, 2018.

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