This article was originally published in the Chicago Tribune on Sept. 29, 2017.
On the campaign trail, Gov. Bruce Rauner assured voters he had “no social agenda.” So why is he now considering expanding taxpayer-funded abortion access in Illinois?
It was never any secret that Gov. Rauner and his wife, Diana, are longtime supporters of the abortions-rights lobby.
However, Gov. Rauner won the Republican primary and subsequent general election by convincing anti-abortion voters and principled Republicans that he was genuine in the statement he repeated over and over during his campaign: He is focused on fixing Illinois’ myriad economic issues and has “no social agenda.”
Anti-abortion advocates are among the most dedicated voters, and many of them base their ballot box decisions solely on whether a candidate is anti-abortion. So it was trust in this campaign promise that led anti-abortion advocates in Illinois to vote for Rauner, in spite of his abortion-rights stance.
I am one of the many Republicans in Illinois who are against abortion who took Gov. Rauner at his word. I supported him during his 2014 campaign, helping organize a fundraiser with supporters and campaigning on his behalf.
In voting for Rauner, we in the “pro-life” community had no expectations he would be a champion for anti-abortion causes or legislation. The expectation was that social issues would go largely untouched as the governor zeroed in on Illinois’ economic problems. That’s why many of his base supporters are outraged that he might be entertaining the idea of signing the bill that would lift restrictions on coverage of abortions by Medicaid and state employee insurance.
The legislation is being sold as a bill that would uphold abortion in Illinois if the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. However, this sales pitch is misleading, as the proposed bill is much more than a provision to keep abortion legal in Illinois. It also expands abortion access and saddles taxpayers with the bill.
Illinoisans already pay for abortions under Medicaid in instances of rape or when a mother’s life is in jeopardy. The bill would force Illinois taxpayers to pay for abortions for state employees and Medicaid recipients through all nine months of pregnancy — for any reason.
Beyond supporting Rauner during his 2014 campaign, I also briefly worked in his administration this summer. I learned firsthand during that time how strident the Rauners are in their support of abortion, so I’m not going to attempt here to prove to them how morally wrong it is. I won’t try to convince them that abortion is murder; that claiming to fight for women’s rights is contrary to allowing millions of them to be exterminated in utero; that science proves life begins at conception; that pre-born children are more than just “clumps of cells.” (Perhaps on this last item, the Rauners can refer to a recent social media post by the Ounce of Prevention Fund, where Diana Rauner is president. A Sept. 18 Ounce of Prevention Fund Facebook post said: “Parenting begins before your baby is even born: Did you know babies’ taste buds begin developing at 8 weeks? Research suggests that what you eat during your pregnancy impacts what your child eats as they grow up — so time to start developing their taste for veggies now!”)
Since moral arguments will not resonate, I’ll stick to the political and economic ones.
In April, the governor’s office stated he did not support HB 40 due to “the sharp divisions of opinion of taxpayer funding of abortion.” Rauner’s initial assessment of the situation is correct, and he should stick to it. Taxpayers on both sides of the abortion debate are deeply divided over whether taxpayers should pay for abortions, especially abortions that are entirely elective and are not related to rape, incest and/or the life of the mother.
The governor should stick to the theme that was his battle cry during the 2014 campaign: Protect taxpayers. Forcing taxpayers to pay for elective abortions is not consistent with the promises Rauner made when he ran for office.
And he should stick to a statement made during a 2013 interview: “I also am an advocate for finding common ground to make abortion rare.” Vetoing the abortion bill would be an excellent way for Gov. Rauner to follow through on this statement. According to Illinois Right to Life, the bill “could increase Illinois abortions as many as 12,000 more per year, based on data from the last time Medicaid funded abortions.” Furthermore, “The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) admitted that 18-33 percent of those on Medicaid state they will not have an abortion unless it is free.”
If Rauner wants voters — especially those who comprise his conservative base — to believe anything he says on the campaign trail in 2018, he should veto the abortion bill on his desk. If Gov. Rauner truly believes in doing what’s best for taxpayers, he must veto the legislation.