By Kiannah Sepeda-Miller
SPRINGFIELD — The Democratic-controlled Illinois Senate voted Wednesday to expand public financing for abortions and ensure legal access to the procedure across the state, although the measure likely awaits a veto by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Senators voted along party lines, 33-22, in favor of the plan, which would permit abortion coverage by state employee health insurance and Medicaid funds. It would also strike statutory language expressing the state’s intent to criminalize the procedure if the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized it is ever overturned.
“It’s not our place here in this chamber to decide when it’s appropriate for a woman to decide whether or not she should get an abortion,” said Democratic Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago, the bill’s Senate sponsor.
The measure, which previously cleared the House, now heads to Rauner.
In responding to a questionnaire as a gubernatorial candidate in 2014, Rauner said he disliked existing law restricting taxpayer-funded abortion coverage and that he’d support a legislative effort to reverse the law.
But last month, Rauner explained he no longer supports expanding abortion coverage because it’s too controversial, adding that Illinois needs to focus on other issues such as job creation. His spokeswoman, Eleni Demertzis, declined to comment further Wednesday.
The plan’s proponents argue denying low-income women full access to abortion services limits their right to the same reproductive care options available to privately insured individuals.
But Republicans countered on the floor that asking taxpayers to fund the procedure goes too far, particularly amid the state’s budget impasse.
“Abortion in itself is repulsive,” said Republican Sen. Neil Anderson of Rock Island. “But to use taxpayer dollars is an absolute travesty.”
Sen. Toi Hutchinson, an Olympia Fields Democrat, pointed to legislation she said supports the well-being of children and mothers along with a robust economy that her Republican colleagues have opposed, such as paid sick leave and subsidized child care.
“The single best thing we can do for our economy is to have over 52 percent of its members able to fully participate in the economic stream,” she said.
Democrats also contended the bill’s second prong, which would remove language in current law they say threatens to re-criminalize abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned, is necessary because Trump has said he will appoint Supreme Court justices who oppose the federal ruling. But Republicans countered the two provisions should stand on their own — if at all — and questioned whether that language could have any effect without further legislative action.