Illinois Governor Rauner Sued After Breaking With Republicans On Abortion

Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is being sued by three separate parties regarding a new law, which requires Illinois doctors who refuse to perform abortions to instead give patients referrals to doctors who will provide abortions. The parties involved include a physician, a nonprofit organization, and a medical care clinic.

Senate Bill 1564 was signed by Rauner last week and will go into effect in January, 2017. The new legislation functions as an amendment to Illinois' Health Care Right of Conscience Act, which gives doctors the freedom to deny performing certain procedures based on their religious beliefs. Examples of services to which some physicians object are certain types of sterilization and abortions. The bill, signed by the governor last week, adds the caveat that in order to legally refuse to provide these services, the patient must be provided a referral to a doctor who will.

Those against Rauner's newly-signed bill say the governor's action reduces the religious freedom of Illinois' providers. reports that pro-life groups in Illinois are denouncing Rauner's signing of the bill, with Illinois Right to Life calling it a "tragedy." The executive director of the pro-life organization, Emily Zender, released a press release denouncing the bill.

"We are extremely disappointed in Gov. Rauner for siding with pro-abortion Democrats by signing SB 1564 and expanding abortions in Illinois.

"This radical bill is a direct assault on the consciences of medical professionals and the missions of community supported pregnancy help centers."

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner Image by 182nd Airlift Wing from USA [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons"
Those in favor of Illinois' new bill believe it will make patients safer, because they will not be undergoing a procedure to which the doctor performing it objects. Co-lead sponsor of the bill, Democratic Senator Daniel Bliss, downplayed the objections, telling the Peoria Journal Star that the law was signed in order to make sure Illinois' patients received enough information to make an informed decision about whether or not to terminate their pregnancy.

The suit was filed today by Chicago, Illinois, nonprofit organization Aid for Women, Inc., the Pregnancy Care Center of Rockford, and Dr. Anthony Caruso of A Bella Baby OBGYN, located in Downers Grove. The filing claims that the new Illinois law signed by Rauner forces doctors to compromise their religious beliefs. In addition, the suit maintains that with the proliferation of internet access in Illinois' libraries and other public places, as well as the general availability of telephone books, patients seeking abortions can find the necessary information on where to go without the governor forcing providers to give out referrals.

In addition to Rauner, the secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is also being sued. Despite multiple calls by the Rockford Register Star to the governor's office, no comment regarding the lawsuit was issued by Rauner.

In a statement to the Rockford Register Star, the executive director of the Pregnancy Care Center, Tiffany Staman, called the law "vague, and there's a lot of uncertainty because the statutes aren't fleshed out yet."

"It impacts what we do and how we do it. We've worked really hard in the community to stay very focused on what we're for, not what we're against. We like to stay focused for the women and for the preborn child that she's carrying, and stay focused on offering health and hope."
Although Staman has not spoken with Dr. Caruso or Aid for Women, Inc., she says all three "share similar beliefs and values."

Illinois Right to Life, as well as other pro-life groups, are calling Rauner's decision a "tragedy." Emily Zender, executive director of Illinois Right to Life, sounded off in a press release.

Illinois State Capitol Image by Éovart Caçeir at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In an email, a spokesman for the governor did not directly address the Republicans' dismay.

"Governor Rauner has never pushed a social agenda and remains committed to government, economic and education reforms that can turn around Illinois."
Rauner's decision to sign the amendment to the Health Care Right of Conscience Act has not only resulted in a lawsuit being filed against him, but also ill will among members of his own party in Illinois' government. Because the law does not take effect until January, there is plenty of time for more legal and political wrangling regarding the amendment to take place.

[Photo via Steven Vance from Chicago, United States|Wikimedia Commons| Cropped and Resized | CC BY 2.0 ]