Democrats drag Rauner back into abortion debate

Local News

ILLINOIS (WCIA)– The controversial abortion bill that nearly cost Governor Rauner the Republican primary has resurfaced. Tuesday, pro-choice groups called on Rauner and JB Pritzker to publicly pledge support for HB40, promising if elected they’d keep the law fully intact.

HB40 allows taxpayer-funded abortions in Illinois, even if the federal government decides to roll back Roe vs. Wade. Last May, Rauner sent shock waves through the party when he went back on his word and signed the bill.

But it seems his signature wasn’t enough, Democrats and a pro-choice Personal PAC say they want the governor’s 100% commitment in writing because they feel the bill’s survival is already being threatened.

Since it passed, conservative lawmakers have filed three bills to roll the law back. One House Republican even took the issue to court arguing, on a technicality, the state hadn’t budgeted for the changes. The case was dismissed and none of the bills made it out of committee.

Most lawmakers admit a repeal is unrealistic, many Republicans are calling the press conference a political hit job on the governor. 

“I can’t imagine what the threat could be. It’s the law now,” says Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield). “We as the minority party don’t have the votes to repeal it. So again, I just think it’s a political ploy by the Democrats to try and draw some attention to it.” 

Democrats backing the pledge say that’s not true.

“I think he owes it to the women of this state to sign the pledge and to say that he will never support a repeal of it. That’s not a lot to ask for a person who’s running for the highest office in this state,” says Rep. Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), the chief architect of the legislation.

Rauner campaigned as a pro-choice candidate. When HB40 came to his desk, he told Republicans he’d veto it, but later changed his mind. Democrats say they need to know he won’t go back on his word again.

The decision to sign the bill was later used as political ammunition for his conservative primary challenger Jeanne Ives who narrowly lost to the governor in March. 

The two have yet to mend their broken relationship. Republicans believe the pledge is being used to deepen the divide within an already fractured party. 

When asked if the governor will sign the letter, a campaign spokesperson replied, they will not comment at this time.

It was noted at Thursday’s press conference that Pritzker has made it clear he would sign this pledge.

The two sentence agreement was mailed to candidates Thursday at noon. Both Pritzker and Rauner have until June 22nd to sign it.

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