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Abortion Opponents Back In Courtroom, Fighting Funding Law

Daisy Contreras
NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS
State Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) is a longtime anti-abortion lawyer. He said lawmakers went against the Illinois Constitution when they failed to approve a revenue estimate last year.

The debate continues over whether Illinois’ law allowing for taxpayer-funded abortions violates the state constitution. A trial judge dismissed the case last year but anti-abortion advocates are fighting back.  

The case went before the Fourth District Appellate Court justices in Springfield who will reconsider the judge’s opinion. The plaintiffs say their argument isn't about the morality of abortion. Instead, they argue there’s no legal authority to use state money for abortions since the General Assembly never adopted a formal revenue estimate last year.

State Rep. Peter Breen — a Lombard Republican and longtime anti-abortion lawyer — said lawmakers went against the constitution when they failed to approve a revenue estimate. “This very well may be the most important case about our fiscal process in recent memory," he said. "If we are able to prevail, then the General Assembly will have to estimate revenues at the beginning of the budget process.” 

Breen says money was not specifically set aside to pay for abortions for state employees or women on the Medicaid program — which was authorized for the first time under the law in question. However, most medical procedures are not separately funded in the budget.

The defendants in the case are state agency directors from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and Department of Central Management Services — as well as the state treasurer and comptroller.

Deputy Solicitor General Brett Legner, from the state attorney general's office, represented the defendants during the oral argument. He said the Illinois Constitution does not require a formal adoption of a revenue estimate to validate the legality of a budget. The 1970 Constitution delegates, he said, did not mandate an estimate.

"They intended to give the General Assembly essentially complete discretion on how to estimate the funds, how to estimate what revenues are available and to appropriate within it," Legner said. 

There’s no timeline for when the appellate court might rule on the case. No matter which side wins, the other party is likely to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Daisy reported on statehouse issues for our Illinois Issues project. She's a Public Affairs Reporting program graduate from the University of Illinois Springfield. She also graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and has an associates degrees from Truman College. Daisy is from Chicago where she attended Lane Tech High School.
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