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Abortion rights group says Gov. Rauner and first lady ‘lied’

Chicago Sun Times

Thursday, April 20, 2017  |  Article  |  Tina Sfondeles

Abortion (1) , Rauner, Bruce

It was no surprise when abortion rights activists blasted Gov. Bruce Rauner Wednesday for his vow to veto a bill they support, but they took it a step further, suggesting the governor — and first lady Diana Rauner — are both liars.

The head of Personal PAC blasted the first lady for helping pay for a full-page newspaper ad in the last campaign in which she and friends touted her husband’s “pro-choice” credentials. During the campaign, Diana Rauner — who heads the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and contributed thousands to Planned Parenthood alongside the governor — became a spokeswoman for her husband.

She appeared in a campaign ad, declaring she’s a Democrat and saying Rauner doesn’t have a “social agenda.”

“So, Diana, did you lie to all your friends … or did Bruce lie to you?” Personal PAC founder Marcie Love asked Wednesday.

The searing rhetoric underscores just how heated the issue could become in the upcoming gubernatorial election after the governor vowed to veto a bill to ensure abortion remains legal in Illinois and also allow women to use Medicaid and state health insurance to pay for the procedure. The state already pays for abortions for cases of rape, incest, to protect the health of the mother and to save the life of the mother. But the new measure seeks to include all abortions.

Rauner’s administration last week said he’d veto the House bill that would remove a “trigger provision” that would make abortions illegal should Roe v. Wade be overturned — and also allow women with Medicaid and state-employee health insurance to use their coverage for abortions.

Before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, abortion in Illinois was illegal unless a mother’s life was at stake. A law was passed in 1975 that said Illinois would make abortions illegal again if the top court’s decision was ever modified.

Terry Cosgrove, CEO of Personal PAC, released a candidate questionnaire from the 2014 governor’s race showing Rauner’s support for pro-choice causes. He said it was the first time in 28 years that the organization released such a survey, choosing to do so to show that Rauner “misrepresented” and “lied to voters” about his women’s rights views. He also said it was Diana Rauner who vouched for her husband’s pro-choice views and sought to bring him in to seek the group’s endorsement.

In a statement on the 2014 questionnaire, Rauner wrote: “I dislike the Illinois law that restricts abortion coverage under the state Medicaid plan and state employees’ health insurance because I believe it unfairly restricts access based on income. I would support a legislative effort to reverse that law.”

But Rauner’s office last week said the governor doesn’t support the current bill because of “sharp divisions of opinion of taxpayer funding of abortion,” while offering that he’s “committed to protecting women’s reproductive rights under current Illinois law.”

The administration on Wednesday said the current law already covers abortions and “goes above and beyond federal law by covering abortions to protect the health of the mother.” They noted that 17 states including Illinois allow taxpayer funds to pay for abortion beyond the federal guidelines.

And as pro-choice activists seek to blast the governor, his administration contends he has signed two bills protecting women’s reproductive rights — one mandating private insurance coverage for birth control and a right of conscience measure.

Rauner, too, has the support of Cardinal Blase Cupich, who on Wednesday thanked him for his stance.

“Abortion is a controversial issue in this country, but using public money to provide abortions should not be,” Cupich said. “The federal government prohibits the practice, and polls show a substantial segment of the American public reject it.”

Cupich also said he’s praying for the divisive social issue to be put behind us so that other challenges in Illinois can be dealt with: “Most importantly, our political leaders must find a way to cooperate and craft a budget that serves all our people.  It is essential that we unite in this effort, and I stand ready to help in any way.”

Cosgrove said there is “misrepresentation and lies” coming from the Rauner administration when it comes to saying he plans to veto the bill because it’s a taxpayer issue. Cosgrove said there would be no fiscal impact if the bill were to pass, despite a fiscal note that says it would cost the state $1.8 million. He said the trigger provision was added after President Donald Trump was elected, and has no fiscal consequences.

Cosgrove said the questionnaire and Rauner’s recent remarks show he has no credibility on the issue.

“He asked that we trust him. He asked us to take him at his word. Then on Friday, April 14, [he] announced he’d veto House Bill 40. I’m shocked because this means that the then 2014 candidate lied to the voters, he lied to friends. He lied to colleagues about his position on reproductive rights,” Cosgrove said. “On Friday, Gov. Rauner placed himself squarely on the side of putting women’s health, women’s lives at risk and on the wrong side of history.”

“I’d have to conclude that Gov. Rauner is Donald Trump on steroids if this continues,” Cosgrove said.