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Why Rauner should veto expansion of Medicaid to elective abortions

Gov. Bruce Rauner's
Gov. Bruce Rauner awaits a bill, which he could veto, to expand abortion coverage through Medicaid. | Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP File

Last spring, the Illinois House passed a bill, by a vote of 62-55, to eliminate a state ban on taxpayer-funded abortion under the state’s Medicaid program. I voted “no.”

For 36 years, Illinois has prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion except in the cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. This also has been the policy of the federal government since 1975.

The ethics of abortion have been debated in Illinois and across the country for decades. While I believe more and more Americans will embrace a culture of life as this debate continues, we must in the meantime address what is at stake with this legislation, House Bill 40. The specific issue is whether taxpayer dollars should be used to pay for elective abortion, meaning termination of a pregnancy for any reason other than rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother.

OPINION

According to the most recent data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, almost 40,000 abortions are performed in Illinois each year. House Bill 40 would expand the eligibility for patients covered by the state’s Medicaid program, thereby forcing taxpayers to pay for elective abortions. The bill also would add full abortion coverage to state employee insurance plans, meaning taxpayers also would pay for elective abortions in this way.

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and a study from the Legislative Reference Bureau estimate that expanding taxpayer-funded abortions could cost the state’s Medicaid program as much as $60 million.

This is more spending at a time when taxes have been increased in an attempt to pay down Illinois’ burgeoning debt. We do not need to add extra costs with morally controversial initiatives at a time when our state struggles with a severe debt crisis.

As of Sept. 20, the Illinois comptroller’s office reports, the state’s backlog of past-due bills exceeds $15.57 billion. In addition, Illinois has another $200 billion in unfunded liabilities, for such things as pensions, and those bills are coming due. That represents more than $16,000 in debt for every man, woman and child in Illinois — a state of 12.8 million people, with a population that has declined by tens of thousands each of the past three years. Unacceptable.

Those who support abortion rights and those who oppose abortion should all agree that the state needs to fix its budget disaster, and we cannot afford to increase the amount of debt on families. The state income tax increase forced through this summer will do nothing to address our long-term financial recklessness. As such, Illinois cannot afford House Bill 40, morally or financially.

Currently, the bill is being held in the Legislature by procedural maneuvering. But when it reaches Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk, he should veto it. He has stated his intention previously to do exactly that. I applaud him for taking that stand.

Illinois families cannot afford this bill and should not support abortion expansions. Divisive issues such as this are a distraction from the important issues of pension reform, responsible budgeting and reforming our state to be a growth economy.

Illinois Rep. Joe Sosnowski, a Republican from Rockford, first was sworn in to represent the state’s 69th District in 2010.

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