Edgar vetoes bill banning taxpayer support of most abortions - Quad-Cities Online: Illinois

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Edgar vetoes bill banning taxpayer support of most abortions

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Posted: Wednesday, August 12, 1998 1:00 am

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Illinois lawmakers are unlikely to override Gov. Jim Edgar's veto of a bill that would have banned taxpayer funding of most abortions for poor women, say two of the bill's supporters.

The legislation would have barred the state Medicaid program from paying for abortions, except those needed to save a woman's life. It also provided an exception in cases of rape or incest, but only if the courts ordered the state to pay and the women had reported the crimes to police.

The measure passed only by a narrow margin, so it would be difficult to find the new votes needed for an override, said Rep. David Phelps, D-Eldorado, who co-sponsored the measure.

Also, Edgar leaves office in January and both major candidates for his job are more open to abortion restrictions, said another co-sponsor, Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. So rather than override the veto, abortion opponents might wait for Edgar's departure and then reintroduce the measure.

In his veto message to lawmakers, Edgar said abortion is a personal issue that a woman must decide after consulting her doctor and her conscience.

``It is not a decision that should be dictated by whether or not she can pay,'' Edgar said. ``Nor is it a decision that should be withheld from her by the federal bureaucracy or reporting requirements.''

But it is unfair to force all taxpayers to help pay for a procedure they abhor, Phelps responded.

``I don't think public funding should enter into that arena at all,'' Phelps said. ``It involves taxpayers who don't feel like that should be done. We're talking about life and death.''

Although the issue raises intense feelings, it involves relatively small numbers.

The state spent about $34,700 on 58 abortions for poor women in the 1997 budget year, according to the Department of Public Aid. Twelve of the abortions were to save the mother's life, which would still have been allowed under the vetoed bill. Sixteen involved rape cases, and 30 were to preserve the mother's health.

Republican George Ryan generally opposes the use of taxpayer money for abortions, said spokesman Dave Urbanek, but he would have been reluctant to sign this legislation because of the requirement that rape and incest victims report to police.

``The health of the woman should come first,'' Urbanek said. ``If she needs medical attention, there should not be caveats on her seeking medical attention.''

Joshua Silverman, campaign manager for Democrat Glenn Poshard, would not discuss the specific bill. He would only say that Poshard's record in Congress shows he opposes abortion -- and government funding of abortions -- except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother's life.

Edgar also signed several bills affecting women.

One makes giving someone ``date rape drugs'' an aggravating factor in a crime, increasing the potential penalties. Another stiffens the penalties for people who repeatedly commit domestic battery or violate orders of protection.

Another measure creates new punishments for people who fail to pay alimony or child support. The bill allows for such things as community service and denial of a driver's license and vehicle registration.

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