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Illinois governor signs bill allowing Medicaid for abortions

CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation that would provide state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions.

The Legislature, which is run by Democrats, approved the measure in May but postponed sending it to Rauner before Monday, in part because he’s wavered on where he stands. As a candidate, Rauner supported expanding coverage for abortions, but in April said he opposed the laws and Illinois should concentrate on economic problems.

Rauner’s final word came in a news conference Thursday prior to signing the bill independently. He said while he had spoke to advocates on both sides, he always supported abortion rights and needed to do it “consistent” with his views.

“The passions, the emotions, the sentiments on both sides of those issues are extremely powerful. I admire them very much,” Rauner stated. “I feel that a woman living with limited financial means shouldn’t be placed in a situation where she must choose something different than a girl of greater income would have the ability to choose.”

The legislation takes effect immediately.

Democrats argued all girls should have the same access to abortion services. Republicans said taxpayers should not be made to finance a morally objectionable process, especially when Illinois has significant financial problems.

The step also removes language in Illinois law which says a desire to criminalize abortion if a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing the process is overturned. Democrats originally sold the bill as a way of keeping abortion legal if Roe v. Wade were dumped.

The decision was politically tricky for Rauner, who is seeking re-election in 2018 and is considered one of the most vulnerable governors nationally.

Singing the invoice earned him praise from leading Illinois Democrats, such as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a onetime White House chief of staff under former President Barack Obama.

Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, who conducted with Rauner in 2014, said she disagreed with the governor as an anti-abortion Republican who had been born to a teenaged mother.

State Rep. Peter Breen, House Republican floor leader, called it a “breach of devotion” and said locating a primary challenger for Rauner “seemed inevitable.”

“It is a betrayal,” Breen said. “In politics you’re just as good as your word.”

Rauner stated he tried to find a compromise but there was not support. He dismissed the effect on his political career.

The wealthy businessman with a enormous campaign account is the major backer of the Illinois Republican Party. Many high-profile Democrats are vying for the opportunity to unseat Rauner, such as billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker.

“Politics are politics,” Rauner stated.

Meanwhile, advocates for women’s reproductive rights known as Rauner’s move a significant step.

“Women across Illinois are permitted to make their own healthcare and lifestyle decisions without interference from politicians,” said Lorie Chaiten, manager the reproductive rights project for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “We’re pleased the governor has stood with these girls and made the perfect choice for our nation.”

Over two dozen states provide Medicaid coverage for abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is at risk, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group supporting abortion rights. This is in keeping with the 1977 federal Hyde Amendment, which otherwise limits federal funding for abortions.

Seventeen states do this, 13 due to a court order.

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