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Anti-abortion group asks Illinois Supreme Court to nullify abortion law

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Thomas More Society special counsel Peter Breen talks to reporters outside of a Sangamon County courtroom on December 6, 2017. Greg Bishop | Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — An anti-abortion group is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to consider the legality of the procedures lawmakers used in 2017 to approve a law that allowed taxpayer-funded state health insurance and Medicaid coverage to be used to cover abortions.

The Thomas More Society, a nonprofit that advocates for anti-abortion policies, has formally requested the state’s highest court take the case to decide if House Bill 40, which Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law last year, was approved within the legal boundaries of the Illinois Constitution.

“The decisions of the lower courts effectively write our balanced budget requirement out of the Illinois Constitution,” said state Rep. Peter Breen, who is serving as special counsel for the group. “We’re asking the Illinois Supreme Court to interpret and enforce the constitution and protect taxpayers against future unbalanced budget spending, including the unfunded spending for elective abortions required by House Bill 40.”

Should the Supreme Court side with the Thomas More Society, it would nullify the law, forcing lawmakers to start from scratch. It would also require Illinois lawmakers to adopt a formal revenue estimate, something Breen said has been ignored in recent years to avoid making tough decisions on state spending in the annual budget.

“Once that number is set, the General Assembly can’t spend more than the number,” Breen said.

Abortion rights group Personal PAC CEO Terry Cosgrove said he was confident that the law would be upheld.

“This is a desperate attempt from right-wingers to put the lives of Illinois women at risk by trying to make abortion illegal and unsafe,” he said.

The law allowed for women who meet certain income requirements to qualify for an abortion assisted by Medicaid funds. It also allowed state health care plans to cover the procedures.

Illinois taxpayers paid for nearly four times more abortions in the first six months of 2018 than the year before. There were 84 abortion reimbursement requests in the first six months of 2017. During the same six-month period this year, there were 314 abortion reimbursement requests, a 247-percent increase, according to records from the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services.

The case was appealed directly to the Illinois Supreme Court, but the court didn’t take it up at that time.

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