Illinois governor reverses course, will expand abortion access for low-income residents

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It’s been a surprisingly successful week for reproductive rights activists, after Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) said Thursday he would sign into law a bill that would expand taxpayer-subsidized abortions for those covered by Medicaid and state employee insurance.

In April, Rauner said he would veto the bill, but reversed course after meeting with activist groups both for and against the legislation.

“I believe that a woman living with limited financial means should not be put in the position where she has to choose something different than a woman of higher income would be able to choose,” Rauner said at a press conference Thursday. “I also believe that no woman should be forced to make a different decision than another woman would make purely based on her income.”

Signing the bill is a politically fraught move for the Illinois governor, who could face a primary challenge for doing so, but Rauner reiterated Thursday that he has always supported abortion rights.

“I have not and never will change my views,” he told reporters. “I personally believe that a woman should have, must have the right to decide what goes on in her own body, that a woman should have the right to decide her health care.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America applauded Rauner’s move Thursday.

“At a time when our basic rights and values are under constant attack, this law cements Illinois’ leadership role in protecting the constitutional right to access abortion,” Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. “While Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans continue their vendetta against Roe v. Wade, we applaud Illinois for standing by women and our reproductive rights.”

Rauner’s decision to sign the bill comes just days after two other significant victories for reproductive rights.

On Friday, an Indiana judge issued a permanent injunction against a law that would have prohibited abortions sought specifically because the fetus had been diagnosed with Down syndrome or other disabilities.

The law also would have required aborted fetuses be buried or cremated and that abortion providers notify patients that seeking an abortion because the fetus may be disabled was against the law in the state.

The restrictions were signed into law last year by Vice President Mike Pence, then the governor of Indiana.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt said the law would violate the right to choose to have an abortion and to make that decision privately, rights the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently affirmed.

And then on Wednesday, Republicans in the U.S. Senate conceded that their latest attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would not have enough votes to pass and the measure would not come to the floor for a vote.

The bill, which was spearheaded by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), would have defunded Planned Parenthood. Asked how they could justify defunding Planned Parenthood in a debate Monday, Graham leaned on debunked sting videos and Cassidy said it was fine to defund the provider because Planned Parenthood clinics serve mostly “urban” women.

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