On Thursday, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a controversial bill that will expand publicly-funded coverage of abortions for low-income residents on Medicaid and state employees.
For months, Rauner had been deliberating whether to sign HB40, which was approved by the state legislature back in May.
The bill’s passage marks the first time in decades that a state has voluntarily lifted Medicaid restrictions on abortion coverage. The legislation also reverses the state’s so-called trigger law which, as Chris Kenning in The Huffington Post notes, will keep abortions legal in the state even if the U.S. Supreme Court heeds President Donald Trump’s call to overturn Roe v. Wade—the landmark ruling that first made the procedure legal in the U.S. 44 years ago.
Conservative Republicans accused Rauner of reneging on his promise to veto the bill, calling him a “failed governor” destined to serve only one term.
In a statement, Rauner defended his decision, insisting that “no woman should be forced to make a different decision than another woman would make purely based on her income.”
“I am personally pro-choice, I always have been. I made no qualms about that when I was elected governor,” Rauner said. “I personally believe that a woman must have the right to decide what goes on in her own body.”
Although conservatives almost immediately threatened a challenge in the March 2018 Republican primary, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Rauner’s considerable personal wealth as well as the lack of other well-known Republican candidates who might oppose the governor, make such a challenge unlikely.
Illinois first lady Diana Rauner, a longtime supporter of abortion rights. helped pay for a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune in 2014 to promote her husband’s “clear consistent position” on reproductive rights during his run for governor.
Both also recognized the tremendous pressure on a Republican governor in a blue state that voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton to pass the measure.
Fifteen states currently permit Medicaid to pay for abortion, including some that have been required by the courts to do so, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.