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Illinois Abortion-Coverage Expansion Challenged

More than a dozen groups and lawmakers who oppose abortion have filed a lawsuit challenging a new law providing taxpayer-funded abortions.

The Thomas More Society filed the action Thursday in Sangamon County Circuit Court. The suit claims it’s illegal to include abortion among procedures covered by state employee health insurance and Medicaid. The coverage is scheduled to begin January 1st.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the measure Sept. 28.  He says there are strong views on the issue. “I respect both sides. I really personally don’t have a social issue agenda. My agenda is on more jobs, lower taxes, better schools and term limits. That is where I spend my time and I hope there is good resolution one way or another on it.”  

The Governor’s signature of the measure has infuriated conservatives who claim he promised to veto it. GOP state Rep. Peter Breen is Thomas More's lawyer. He says taxpayers morally object to financing up to 30,000 abortions annually. He adds it's illegal because there's no state budget to cover them and because lawmakers held onto the legislation so long that the Constitution bars it from taking effect earlier than June 1. 

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office indicates it will defend the law in court, but otherwise declined to comment. A hearing on the suit is set for next Thursday, December 7th at the Sangamon County Courthouse in Springfield.

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Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.