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House sends Quinn advisory referendum on contraception coverage

SPRINGFIELD-Even though it’s been state law since 2004, Illinois voters would be asked whether health insurers should cover contraception under legislation now on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn.

The Senate voted 62-48 to place a non-binding referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot in a move Republicans said was aimed only at “ginning up” the base of the Democratic Party.

“I’d like to hear from our residents about how strongly they feel about birth control,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, the bill’s chief House sponsor.

Backers of the bill have said the question would give the Legislature guidance from voters in the event that federal courts knock down provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which mandates contraception coverage.

But Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, said there have been no challenges to existing decade-old state law mandating that coverage and the move is merely an effort by Democrats to draw women to the polls in November.

“This is yet another misuse of public questions to gin up the vote come November,” Sandack said. “There is absolutely no legitimate question what the state of the law is now.”

The measure marks the third advisory referendum the Democratic-led Legislature has presented to the governor. The others ask voters about increasing the minimum wage and imposing a 3-percent tax on millionaires.

Two other constitutional amendments have been put on the ballot by state lawmakers. They include questions dealing with voter suppression and victims’ rights.

The State Board of Elections also is evaluating two other possible constitutional amendments that are the result of voter-led initiatives. One deals, in part, with term limits for state legislators. The other would change how Illinois draws its legislative and congressional maps.