Abortion rights now loom as a key factor in Illinois politics in wake of Supreme Court leak

The potential of erosion or end of abortion rights boosts Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and could imperil GOP primary candidate Richard Irvin, who is not campaigning on his anti-abortion stance.

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A few dozen activists rallied and marched around Chicago’s downtown Loop neighborhood decrying a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court of the United States that would end federal protections for Abortion, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. | Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A few dozen activists rallied and marched around Chicago’s downtown Loop neighborhood decrying a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court of the United States that would end federal protections for Abortion, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Time

Abortion rights is now a front burner issue, one that could spur Democratic turnout in the June Illinois primary and November general election — and take steam out of the GOP attack on Democrats up and down the ticket over Chicago area crime.

Abortion is a polarizing matter and one of the hardest to find common ground. What voters appreciate is clarity — that is, knowing where a candidate stands. The issue is also hugely personal, and emotional for many voters.

Here’s an overview of the potential Illinois impact in the wake of the leaked February draft of a Supreme Court decision overturning abortion rights in a Mississippi case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Analysis bug

Analysis

ABORTION RIGHTS POPULAR IN ILLINOIS: Let’s start with a foundational finding. An April 2021 survey by Public Policy Polling concluded 73% of respondents agreed abortion “should remain legal in Illinois as a private decision between a woman and her doctor, not politicians.”

TIMING: Many Illinois primary voters will cast ballots not knowing the outcome — for sure — of the case. The Supreme Court wraps up its current session in late June or early July. The Illinois primary is June 28 and early voting and mail-in balloting starts weeks earlier.

GOP GOVERNOR PRIMARY/IRVIN IMPACT: The very real potential of erosion or end of abortion rights boosts Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and could imperil GOP primary candidate Richard Irvin, who is not campaigning on his anti-abortion stance.

And that could be fatal in a GOP primary, especially with the threat of a Roe v. Wade reversal.

It’s abundantly clear through word and deed Pritzker strongly supports abortion rights and is committed to making Illinois a state where abortions will always be available, that is, if Democrats are in charge.

Irvin, the Aurora mayor, told FOX 32 Chicago in February that he is “pro-life,” but said, “you know, there are always exceptions: rape, incest, life of the mother.” And that was a rare utterance of the topic. His campaign also opted out of issuing a statement regarding the draft opinion, then said they’d chime in if and when the Supreme Court issues an official opinion.

Irvin is courting conservative and suburban women voters, so an outright applause — or dissent — for the opinion could lose him some votes.

The leak wounds Irvin because some of his key rivals in the June Republican primary are firmly and clearly anti-abortion. Voters who care about abortion — and there are many of them — want a candidate they can trust.

If Irvin survives the primary and becomes the GOP nominee, Republicans who are anti-abortion may sit out the race to punish a fence sitter who abandoned them on a crucial issue in order to appeal to Democrats in a general election.

State Sen. Darren Bailey

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, a candidate for governor, speaks Tuesday in Chicago about the leak of a SCOTUS draft opinion that signals Roe v Wade may be overturned.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

BOOST FOR BAILEY? Irvin’s biggest opponent, state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, is capitalizing on the leaked opinion. Bailey, who is endorsed by the state’s top anti-abortion groups, came to Chicago on Tuesday for a news conference with those groups. GOP governor primary rivals Jesse Sullivan and Gary Rabine have also publicly applauded the draft opinion. Bailey has also aimed to put pressure on Irvin to talk about his anti-abortion stance: “I have opponents in a primary who won’t say where they stand on these important issues,” Bailey said after receiving the endorsements of anti-abortion groups last month.

PASTOR CHRIS BUTLER, ANTI-ABORTION DEMOCRAT: Anti-abortion Democrats getting elected to office are rare in Illinois.

There are 20 Democrats in the primary to replace Rep. Bobby Rush in the 1st Congressional District, with the winner determined by a plurality vote. The pending ruling may give a boost to Pastor Chris Butler, who is the only anti-abortion Democrat running. The upcoming ruling could animate and consolidate his political base.

When Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., was defeated in the 2020 Democratic primary by Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., Illinois lost its most prominent anti-abortion Democratic voice. Lipinski recently endorsed Butler, who also earlier picked up the backing of another anti-abortion Democrat, former Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich.

ILLINOIS REPUBLICANS FOCUS ON LEAK: Republicans Reps. Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood focused on the historic, rare leak of a Supreme Court draft — as much or more as ending Roe v Wade.

LaHood’s statement knit together the local and national angles when he said, “Leaders should be defending the Court, but President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and Governor Pritzker’s statements continue to play into the radical Left’s long-running campaign to intimidate federal judges and politicize the Supreme Court.”

Davis, facing a primary with GOP Rep. Mary Miller, said in a statement, “I am deeply concerned by the fact this draft opinion was leaked. This is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate the justices on this case and sway their opinion. A leak of this magnitude must be condemned and, if warranted, investigated and prosecuted. Those on the Left who are cheering this lawless type of behavior are contributing to the undermining of our Nation’s institutions and civic processes. Please pray for the safety of the justices on our Supreme Court.”

PRAYER COMPETITION: Interesting to note Miller on Twitter, offered her prayers for the justices first. “Our Justices need your prayers to stand up to the radical abortion industry and Defend Life!”

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