The Corner

Politics & Policy

Taxpayer-Funded Abortions on the Rise in Illinois

(Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

In September 2017, Bruce Rauner, then governor of Illinois, generated a firestorm when he signed a bill, HB 40, mandating taxpayer funding of abortion for low-income women through the state’s Medicaid program. He was the first governor to mandate taxpayer funding for elective abortions; in other states where elective abortions are funded through Medicaid, the policy came about either through a court order or an administrative ruling.

During his election campaign, Rauner had said he was “pro-choice” but also had promised not to change abortion policy. Pro-life constituents were justifiably outraged by his betrayal, and they believed that HB 40 would contribute to a rise the number of abortions paid for with taxpayer dollars. New data from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services show that those concerns were well founded.

A Freedom of Information Act request filed by NewsChannel 20 in Springfield, Ill., found that in the first six months of 2018, there was a sharp increase in the number of taxpayer-funded abortions in the state. In the first half of 2017, only 84 abortions were publicly funded, but in the first half of 2018 — after HB 40 had taken effect — 1,561 abortions were paid for by Illinois taxpayers. This is an increase of 1,758 percent. It appears that approximately 10 percent of all abortions performed in Illinois are paid for with taxpayer dollars.

This is fairly unsurprising. There is a broad, research-based consensus that funding abortion through Medicaid increases the incidence of abortion. In 2009, the Guttmacher Institute published a literature review on the impact of restrictions on Medicaid funding for abortions, noting that most peer-reviewed studies found that Medicaid funding for abortion increases abortion rates.  A 2010 analysis by the Center for Reproductive Rights found that the Hyde amendment, which prohibits direct federal funding of abortion, has prevented more than 1 million abortions since 1976. My 2016 analysis of the Hyde amendment, published by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, found that the Hyde amendment has prevented more than 2 million abortions.

This should serve as a warning to pro-lifers. Until recently, relatively few elected officials aggressively pushed for taxpayer-funded abortion. Both President Clinton and President Obama signed appropriations bills that included the Hyde amendment. That has changed. At their 2016 convention, Democrats adopted a party platform that explicitly called for the repeal of the Hyde amendment. According to ThinkProgress, 183 Democratic members of Congress support repealing the Hyde amendment. Congressional Democrats recently commissioned a report from the General Accounting Office, which argues that some state Medicaid plans do not sufficiently cover abortion services. Pro-lifers should focus their energy on opposing these efforts to expand Medicaid coverage of abortion both at the federal and state level.

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Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.

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