Pro-life lawmakers, groups appeal Springfield judge's refusal to block IL abortion funding law

By The Cook County Record | Jan 2, 2018

A group of pro-life Illinois state legislators, anti-abortion organizations and the Springfield Roman Catholic diocese have indicated they will continue their legal fight to stop the state of Illinois from using taxpayer money to fund abortions, filing notices to appeal a Springfield judge’s decision to deny them the injunction they sought to block the state law authorizing public funding for what they estimate could be “tens of thousands” of abortions each year.

On Jan. 2, state Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, filed notices of appeal in Sangamon County court on behalf of the coalition of pro-life lawmakers and groups, saying they intend to ask the Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court to overturn the decision of a Sangamon County circuit judge who had denied the group the injunction they sought to prevent the state law from taking effect on Jan. 1.

Breen, who is also a lawyer, is serving as legal counsel for the plaintiffs through the Thomas More Society, of Chicago. Others serving as counsel for the plaintiffs include attorneys with the firms of LaBarre, Young & Behnke, and of Graham & Graham, both of Springfield.

The appeal comes about five days since Sangamon County Circuit Judge Jennifer M. Ascher sided with the state in the opening round of a legal challenge filed by the anti-abortion coalition against the state law, generally known as House Bill 40.

Peter Breen  

Under that law, which was passed by the Democratic-controlled Illinois General Assembly and signed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, the state would authorize funding for abortions for women on Medicaid, or who are on state employee health insurance plans.

In the legal challenge, the plaintiffs estimated the state could be required to pay for 30,000 abortions per year, or more, adding tens of millions of dollars to state spending without having identified how the state will actually pay for the procedures.

Since federal Medicaid funds can’t be used to pay for abortion directly, the plaintiffs noted Illinois taxpayers would be left to foot the bill for procedures under HB40.

The lawsuit alleges the failure to identify a funding mechanism makes the law unconstitutional.

Further, the lawsuit asserts the law could not take effect on Jan. 1, as the law was not sent to the governor’s desk until after May 31. Under state law, this should mean HB40 can’t take effect until June 1, at the earliest.

Judge Ascher, however, rejected those contentions, denying the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, blocking the law from taking effect until further court proceedings on the challenge can take place. The judge sided with the state, which argued HB40 was constitutional and legal.

The plaintiffs maintained the judge erred in her decision, and have indicated they will ask the Fourth District justices to slap a hold on the law for now, and send the case back to Sangamon County court for further proceedings.

Plaintiffs in the case include state representatives Barbara Wheeler, Mark Batinick, Steve Reick, Keith Wheeler, Charlie Meier and Jeanne Ives, and sate senators Dan McConchie, Kyle McCarter, Paul Schimpf, Dale Fowler, Sam McCann and Neil Anderson.

Organizations suing the state include the Illinois Right to Life Action, Illinois Federation for Right to Life, the Pro-Life Action League and “Right to Life” committees and groups from Springfield, Lake County, Knox County, Morgan County, Henry County, Clinton County and Adams County, as well as the Diocese of Springfield.

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Organizations in this Story

Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Illinois Federation for Right to Life Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court Illinois General Assembly Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner Illinois Representative Peter Breen (R-48th) Thomas More Society

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