The eyes of Illinois and the entire country are on Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner this week.
Earlier this year, the Illinois legislature passed the controversial HB 40, insuring that abortion remains legal in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is overturned. More importantly, HB 40 would also require taxpayer funding of abortion for low income women through Illinois’ Medicaid program.
In April, Rauner indicated that he would oppose the legislation because of “sharp divisions of opinion” about taxpayer-funding of abortion. However, word out of Springfield is that the Governor may be reconsidering his position. That said, Governor Rauner absolutely needs to keep his promise and veto HB 40 — most importantly because thousands of innocent lives depend on it.
There is a considerable amount of debate among scholars about various aspects of abortion policy. However, when it comes to the issue of taxpayer subsidies, there is a very broad consensus among both pro-life and pro-choice researchers that funding abortion through Medicaid significantly increases abortion rates. In 2009, the Guttmacher Institute – which until 2007 Planned Parenthood’s research arm – published a literature review on the research about public funding of abortion. They found that 19 of 22 studies found taxpayer funding of abortion increased the incidence of abortion.
Similarly, in 2010, the Center for Reproductive Rights did an analysis of the Hyde Amendment, which limits the ability of federal Medicaid dollars to pay for abortions. They found that the Hyde Amendment prevented over 1,000,000 abortions since 1976. My 2016 analysis of the Hyde Amendment, published by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, updated the Center for Reproductive Rights study. It found that the Hyde Amendment has stopped over 2.1 million abortions in 40 years.
Furthermore, the Hyde Amendment has stopped 144,721 abortions in Illinois since 1976 and protects 3,800 unborn children in Illinois every year.
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In addition to being good policy, vetoing HB 40 would be wise politically for Governor Rauner. Very few politicians support taxpayer funding of abortion. Since the 1970s, the Hyde Amendment has consistently passed with broad bi-partisan majorities in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Furthermore, pro-choice Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both willingly signed appropriations bills that included Hyde Amendment protections. The Democratic Party’s platform was silent on the matter of taxpayer funding of abortion every election cycle up until 2016.
Furthermore, a substantial body of survey data finds that taxpayer funding of abortion is unpopular among the general public. For instance, a 2016 poll conducted by Politico and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health showed that 58 percent of likely voters oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. Additionally, four consecutive surveys conducted by the Marist Poll have all found that over 60 percent of Americans oppose having taxpayer dollars fund abortion. Opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion is strong among a range of demographic groups. For instance, the 2016 poll found that over 60 percent of African-Americans, Hispanics, and independents all oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.
Additionally, while there are 15 states that fund abortions through Medicaid, in 11 states this policy was decided by a judicial ruling. Furthermore, in the four states where the funding policy came about through the democratic process – it did so indirectly. Hawaii, Maryland, New York, and Washington all legalized abortion prior to Roe v. Wade. Subsequently, administrative agencies in these states decided Medicaid would cover abortions. Language about taxpayer funding for abortion was nowhere to be found in the actual legislation. As such, if Governor Rauner signs HB 40 he would literally be the first Governor to sign legislation that would start taxpayer funding for elective abortions in his state.
Most candidates who argue that abortion should be legal – often say it should only be a last resort. When campaigning for President in 1992, Bill Clinton stated abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” President Obama at times expressed interest in trying to get abortion numbers down. Furthermore, until recently, very few “pro-choice” politicians have supported taxpayer funding of abortion. Vetoing HB 40 gives Governor Rauner a unique opportunity. As the governor of a large state, Governor Rauner could show the country these pledges made by pro-choice politicians to reduce abortion numbers are more than just empty rhetoric.
After all, 3,800 innocent lives are at stake.
LifeNews Note: Michael J. New is an Associate Professor of Economics at Ave Maria University and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. He is a former political science professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is a fellow at Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.