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Ill. lawmaker proposes bills to protect, expand abortion rights

Illinois Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D) has proposed two measures aimed at expanding abortion access and protecting abortion rights in the state, WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" reports.

Feigenholtz said she has close to the necessary number of votes to get both bills approved, but she said she would likely fall short of a veto-proof majority. As a result, she said the bill would require the final approval of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), who has previously supported reproductive rights.

Measure to expand abortion access

One measure, which has been "floating" in the state Legislature for two years, would expand access to abortion care for women covered through Medicaid and certain state health insurance plans. Feigenholtz said she is renewing her efforts to pass the legislation in light of antiabortion-rights comments made by President-elect Donald Trump during his campaign.

According to "Chicago Tonight," Medicaid currently provides abortion coverage only in instances of rape, incest and when the woman's life is in danger. Abortion-rights advocates have expressed concerns with such limited coverage, noting that the coverage requires the agreement of an auditor. In addition, they pointed out that it discriminates against low-income women who are covered by Medicaid, given that private health care plans, which are more costly, tend to cover abortion care more fully.

Terry Cosgrove, head of the Personal PAC and advocate of the bill, said, "The problem is that the providers are very hesitant to invoke the health exception." She explained, "What if someone audits a woman (who) has high blood pressure and diabetes and a 90 percent chance of dying from carrying the pregnancy to term, but the auditor disagrees? Then there's a threat they won't receive reimbursement for the service. If a woman needs an abortion for any reason, she should have the ability to have her health care cover it."

Measure to protect abortion rights

Feigenholtz has also proposed another bill that would protect the legality of abortion care if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The bill is still being finalized. However, according to "Chicago Tonight," the measure would abolish the state's "trigger law." Under the trigger law, Illinois would criminalize abortion care and certain forms of contraception should the Supreme Court strike down the protections established under Roe and let states individually decide whether abortion care is legal, "Chicago Tonight" reports.

According to Feigenholtz, the bill comes in response to Trump's campaign pledge to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would be willing to overturn Roe. Feigenholtz said, "It is my assumption that with Donald Trump and [Vice President-elect] Mike Pence at the helm that we're going to see a much more conservative [high] court, and it is the courts that ultimately decide these things, and if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the president-elect has publicly said, 'You'll be able to get abortions in some states, but not others.'"

Noting that "women would not stop having abortions" if Roe is overturned, Feigenholtz continued, "What this bill means is that the state of Illinois and the Illinois Legislature is making a statement proactively that we are a safe state for a woman's right to choose. We want Illinois to be a state where abortion services are safe and legal" (Schutz, "Chicago Tonight," WTTW, 12/12).