Rauner, lawmakers ‘assessing’ whether to pull trigger on abortion bill

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Then Governor-elect Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diana attended services at Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood in 2014. File Photo. | Al Podgorski / Sun-Times Media

It’s a classic Catch-22.

Or in this case, a Catch-HB 40.

Sponsors of a bill to ensure abortion remains legal in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is overturned say they refuse to send the measure to Gov. Bruce Rauner until he lets them know whether he plans to sign or veto it.

But the governor won’t say what he will do — until he can actually see the bill on his desk.

The legislation, House Bill 40, wouldremove a “trigger provision” that would make abortions illegal in Illinois should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade. It would alsoallowwomen with Medicaid and state-employee health insurance to use their coverage for abortions.

“I just want to know what he’s going to do. We are trying to assess that,” bill sponsor state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said this week. “I think the fact that he’s not going around saying he’s going to veto it, I think we may be making progress.”

Steans said she’s looking for word, whether it be from Rauner himself, his administration or advocates,on whether he’ll sign it before it’s sent over.

“It matters a lot to many women, and I think the growing sense of that is really getting fully understood. So I’m hoping we can actually have HB 40 become law,” Steans said.

The governor’s position on the measure seemed crystal clear in April when he announced he didn’t support it because of “sharp divisions of opinion of taxpayer funding of abortion,” with his administration also offering that he’s “committed to protecting women’s reproductive rights under current Illinois law.”

But just this week, Rauner told reporters he’s “assessing” the bill: “I am meeting with advocates and legislators on both sides, both who support the bill and who are against the bill. And we’re assessing,” Rauner said.

And the governor refused to say which way he is leaning until he sees the bill.

“The bill has not been sent to my desk,” Rauner said, “I think it’s a reasonable question to find out why.”

House sponsor state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, says she’s remaining optimistic, but believes the political pressures of the thorny subject are taking over.

“I thought that Bruce Rauner, based on his [candidate] questionnaire and some things he has done in his personal life with [first lady] Diana [Rauner] were indicative of him being a pro-choice partner,” Feigenholtz said. “And sadly, politics must have prevailed over everything else. He did flip flop, but you know what? Maybe he’ll change his mind again. … I would petition him, with humility, to try and put politics aside and think about the promise he made, and to try to fulfill it.”

Feigenholtz said an amendatory veto — vetoing just the Medicaid portion of the bill — isn’t good enough.

“It’s dead if he does an amendatory veto. He’s vetoing the bill. If he doesn’t sign the bill, he’s vetoing the bill. That’s how I see it. Dead,” Feigenholtz said. “He’ll wear the jacket. If he does anything but sign that bill, that’s his way of saying Illinois women are on their own.”

And state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, who did not vote to support the bill, said Rauner must “take a stand and stick by it on issues that are important.”

“I respect people on both sides, but you have to take a stand,” McSweeney said. “Either you’re for it or against it.”

The Sun-Times reported last month that the bill has caused friction within the governor’s administration. Sources said first lady Diana Rauner, a strong advocate for abortion rights, had pushed for the governor to do press conferences, issue statements and clarifications about the governor also supporting abortion rights, amid concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union and Personal PAC, both of which want to keep abortion legal. The governor’s staff, however, warned that would alienate some suburban voters, and anger Republicans at a time when he needed their support with the budget.

The legislation became campaign fodder almost immediately after Rauner said he wouldn’t support it. And Personal PAC has also continued its campaign urging abortion rights supporters to call the governor to tell him to sign the measure. Terry Cosgrove, the head of Personal PAC, in April blasted the first lady for helping pay for a full-page newspaper ad in the last campaign in which she and friends touted her husband’s “pro-choice” credentials.Duringthe campaign, Diana Rauner — who heads the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and contributedthousands to Planned Parenthood alongside the governor, appeared in a campaign ad, declaring she’s a Democrat and saying Rauner doesn’t have a “social agenda.”

Rauner’s administration in Aprilsaid the current law already covers abortions and “goes above and beyond federal law by providing public funding for abortions to protect the health of the mother.” They noted that 17 states including Illinois allow taxpayer funds to pay for abortion beyond the federal guidelines. They also contendedhe has signed two bills protecting women’s reproductive rights — one mandating private insurance coverage for birth control anda right of conscience measure.

Citing the political nature of the contentious issue, Democratic gubernatorial candidates jumped at the chance to put pressure on the governor to sign the bill — and continue to do so. J.B. Pritzker last week delivered 4,000 postcards in support of the measure to Rauner’s Chicago office, alongside Steans and Feigenholtz. Pritzker on Thursday also began airing TV ads pressuring the governor to sign it. Chris Kennedy, too, has targeted the governor. In an email to supporters earlier this month, Kennedy wrote that the governor is staging a “war on women,” and is showing his “true colors” in signaling he’dveto it.

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