Illinois law requiring taxpayers to pay for abortions faces court challenge; no funding source ID'd, suit says

By Michael Carroll | Dec 4, 2017

SPRINGFIELD – Anti-abortion groups have filed a lawsuit challenging an Illinois law that clears the way for the public funding of elective abortions beginning on Jan. 1.

The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public-interest law firm, filed the lawsuit in Sangamon County Circuit Court on Nov. 30. Those bringing the lawsuit against House Bill 40, which the state legislature passed in September, include eight Republican state lawmakers and the Springfield Catholic Diocese.

HB 40 was passed in violation of General Assembly rules and is at odds with the Illinois constitution’s balanced budget provisions, which say that the legislature must identify appropriations or provide revenue estimates prior to passage, the lawsuit states.

“In the absence of the constitutionally required estimate of revenues – establishing the ‘ceiling’ beyond which they may not go – showing that there are funds available for such a putative appropriation, the General Assembly cannot authorize and defendants cannot expend state moneys in furtherance of HB 40’s new services,” the lawsuit states.

Pediatric Services of America, Inc. will pay $2.4 million to the state of Pennsylvania as part of a national settlement with 19 other states over allegations it didn't return overpayments made by Medicaid, said Attorney General Kathleen Kane.   Shutterstock

The defendants are Felicia Norwood, director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services; Michael Hoffman, acting director of Central Management Services; Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs; and state Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

Peter Breen, the special counsel who’s handling the case and a Republican state representative from Lombard, said the lawsuit was filed this past week rather than right after it was signed into law for several reasons. Time was required for due diligence because it delves into unique questions about the rules of the state Senate and to determine which groups wanted to be part of the lawsuit.

“There is plenty of time to get a ruling on this before the end of the year,” Breen told the Cook County Record.

The lawsuit estimates that the state will have to pay for up to 30,000 abortions through its Medicaid program as a result of the new law. At about $1,000 per abortion procedure, that adds tens of millions of dollars to state spending, according to Breen.

Those numbers are based on Illinois Department of Public Health figures showing that the number of abortions annually in the state number 40,000, he said. Among those women, about 75 percent have incomes that are below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and would thus be Medicaid-eligible, according to Breen.

But the taxpayer bill may even exceed those numbers because providing public funding would likely increase the number of abortions in Illinois by at least 4,000 annually, he said.

HB 40 puts Illinois in line with 17 other states that fund abortions for lower-income women alongside general health services, according to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Guttmacher Institute.

Because federal Medicaid funds can’t go toward abortion services except in cases of rape, incest or the health of the mother, Illinois taxpayers alone would have to pay most of money to carry out HB 40, according to Breen.

“We are entirely on the hook for any of these Medicaid expenditures,” he said.

The lawsuit also argues that because the bill cleared the legislature after a legally binding May 31 cutoff date, it can’t take effect until June 1, 2018.

Breen rejects the argument made by some abortion-rights advocates that publicly funded abortions could end up saving money because the costs of childbirth and the child’s health care would exceed the price of an abortion procedure.

The misuse of public funds that would result from HB 40 is wrong in itself, he said, and the loss of thousands more people through abortion in a state with a declining population would have a depressive economic impact down the line.

“It’s economically improper because it totally discounts the productivity of each new life,” Breen said.

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Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Illinois General Assembly Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner Illinois Office of the Treasurer Illinois State Comptroller Thomas More Society

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