Breen vows abortion fight has long way to go in Illinois
Abortion opponents in Illinois shouldn't count themselves out despite Gov. Bruce Rauner's signing of controversial abortion legislation last month, Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard), the House GOP floor leader, told the DuPage Policy Journal recently.
"I want people to have hope," he said. "I know many despaired when House Bill 40 was signed, but we believe we have many opportunities to get that reversed."
Those opportunities include bills sponsored by Breen and a state senator, a strategy borrowed from federal legislation and a lawsuit being drafted against HB40, Breen said.
"I want people to know that there are many parts and many components to all of this," Breen said. "We believe this will allow us to win and to make sure that taxpayer dollars will not be used to pay for elective abortions."
Breen said Rauner's decision in September "left us all shell-shocked."
HB40, which forces state health insurance and Medicaid to cover abortions, was passed by the Democratically controlled General Assembly in May. Rauner had been counted on to veto it but instead enacted it, saying he has always supported abortion rights and "no woman should be forced to make a different decision than another woman would make purely based on her income."
Rauner is the first governor to require taxpayers to fund abortion.
In a General Assembly marked by huge partisan division, Breen has had some successes this year, including his child protection and statute of limitation bills that became law.
Earlier this month, Breen and Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorne Woods) introduced the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, or House Bill 4114 and Senate Bill 2241, respectively. Similar to federal legislation of the same name, the bills would prohibit using taxpayer money to pay for elective abortions and reverse key provisions of HB40.
SB2241 has gone to Senate Assignments, while HB 4114, which to date has picked up 41 co-sponsors, is in the House Rules Committee.
"It has been well received by my Republican colleagues," Breen said.
He also has heard from House Democrats, particularly those from downstate, who are interesting in signing on because abortion rights "are not popular in their districts," Breen said.
"So we're hopeful," Breen said. "We've got a good number of co-sponsors, but we're hopeful we can come up with a plural majority and get this passed in the House."
A vote can't happen until the bill passes out of committee and onto the House floor for debate.
"And that is completely up to [House] Speaker [Mike] Madigan," Breen said. "You never know what will catch the speaker's eye."
Breen added that, taking a lesson from the federal Hyde Amendement, which blocks federal Medicaid funding for abortions, HB4114 doesn't have to be a legislative one-off.
"Even if we can't get movement on this bill, I plan to reintroduce it every single year until it is passed," he said.
Breen said he also will keep his eyes open for spending packages to which his legislation to prevent taxpayer funding of elective abortions can be attached.
There's also potential legal action to stall implementation of HB40 or rescind it, he said.
"We're still drafting that lawsuit, but we are moving forward on it," Breen said.