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Illinois Abortion Opponents Lose in Court but Say They will Appeal

Brian Mackey
State Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, argued against a new Illinois law expanding public funding for abortion to women on the Medicaid program and who get health insurance through state employment.

A new law allowing public funding of abortion in Illinois will take effect as scheduled on January 1, 2018. That's after a judge on Thursday ruled against anti-abortion groups who sued to block it.

The law would, for the first time in Illinois, allow tax money to be spent on abortions for state employees and women in the Medicaid program.

The groups suing over the law were not making a moral argument. Rather they say it shouldn't take effect in part because General Assembly's budget process violated the Illinois Constitution.

They said because the legislation was signed after the budget was passed, there’s no legal authority to use state money for abortions. They also argue that because a senator used a parliamentary hold to block the bill until after the legislature's constitutional adjournment date on May 31, it cannot take effect until next summer.

But Sangamon County Associate Judge Jennifer Ascher rejected those arguments.

“I do find that the equation of the constitutionality of the payments … is a political question, for which I lack jurisdiction,” Ascher said.

She cited case law that says legislative disputes must be resolved in the legislative arena.

The abortion opponents say they’ll appeal her decision first thing January 2.

“We are disappointed with the circuit judge’s opinion today, but we’re going to take it on appeal," said Peter Breen, a Republican state representative from Lombard and a lawyer with the Roman Catholic Thomas More Society.

"We’re very familiar with having to take negative rulings in the trial court up on appeal to get them reversed," Breen added.

Brian Mackey covers Illinois state government and politics from the WUIS Statehouse bureau. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. He can be reached at (217) 206-6020.