Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday said he supports the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a politically connected conservative judge, just as Democrats in Illinois and across the country sounded the alarm on potential rulings on abortion restrictions, gun rights and a roll back of Obamacare.
But Rauner, who is facing an onslaught of Democratic pressure in light of the President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, said his signing of House Bill 40 last year will protect the reproductive rights of women in Illinois — even if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
That’s a key concern for many Democrats in Illinois. Rauner in September signed the controversial measure that expanded taxpayer-funding of abortions. And it also prevented a trigger in Illinois law that abortion rights supporters say would make the procedure illegal in Illinois should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
“I support the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh. I believe he is highly experienced, well-qualified for the position, and I hope that his nomination is voted on and approved expeditiously,” Rauner told reporters in Schaumburg after touring Amada America, Inc.
Rauner, too, accused Democrats of “trying to play politics with this issue.”
“I want to make clear that I signed legislation here in the state of Illinois so that women’s reproductive rights are protected regardless of what happens at the federal level,” the governor said.
Rauner’s comments came after a group of Chicago Democrats, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, state Sen. Heather Steans and state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz — pressured the Republican governor to sign a pledge, vowing to protect HB40 should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
“The truth is, if re-elected, Bruce Rauner has proven he can’t be trusted to protect legal abortion in Illinois unless the voters of Illinois have a written promise, this promise, that if re-elected he won’t do anything to repeal, diminish or amend HB40,” said Terry Cosgrove, Personal PAC CEO. The pro-choice group has already endorsed Democrat J.B. Pritzker for governor.
The group said they wanted word that Rauner would veto any measure that would undo HB40 — despite the unlikely chance that a Democratic majority in Illinois would do so.
“Did you think we’d ever have Donald Trump as our president? You never know what’s going to happen and look what we’re dealing with,” state Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, said. “I never thought we’d say when Roe v. Wade falls … we don’t know what the future holds. We’ve got to protect Illinois women.”
Rauner’s unexpected decision to sign the abortion bill last year riled up the state’s social conservatives, and even prompted state Rep. Jeanne Ives to run against Rauner in the March primary. And while many dubbed Rauner a flip-flopper — with Cardinal Blase Cupich saying Rauner broke his word — the Republican governor has consistently cited his pro-choice views.
Pritzker was quick to respond to Trump’s pick on Monday and urged Rauner to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination “in full force.”
Kavanaugh is a conservative judge nominated Monday to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican appointee who was a swing vote on some key issues. Democrats argue Kavanaugh’s elevation will cement a more conservative court for decades to come.
“A woman’s right to choose is on the line, LGBTQ rights could be rolled back, affordable healthcare could be brought down, fair housing, consumer protections, and environmental protections could all be decimated,” Pritzker said in a statement. “There are lives on the line here and this is a moment that calls for leaders of all political stripes to come together.”
Planned Parenthood of Illinois also entered the fray of Kavanaugh’s nomination, aiming to put pressure on newly named director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, outgoing state Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale. Bellock begins her position on Wednesday.
The group said Bellock has been “outspoken about her opposition to reproductive rights” and that her record shows “she would likely dismantle the protections created by HB40.”
But Rauner spokeswoman Patty Schuh called the group’s assessment “creative thinking.”
“Patti Bellock is the Governor’s choice as director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services,” Schuh said. “She is not the governor. Governor Rauner signed the law in Illinois to protect a woman’s right to decide, no matter their income.”