A Washington DC protest, view of the back of a white person holding up a sign that states "Let's Talk about the Elephant in the Womb"
Credit: Gayatri Malhotra/Unsplash

As you know by now, the MAGA Six on the Supreme Court eviscerated abortion rights with their recent anti-Roe ruling, thus triggering local laws that instantaneously made abortion illegal in a dozen or so states.

None of which were Illinois. And for that we must at least partially thank former Governor Bruce Rauner. Words I never imagined I’d say.

I offer this not-so-ancient history lesson to illustrate how far to the right the Republican Party has moved in the five years since Rauner signed the abortion-rights bill that eliminated the trigger language and, in so doing, helped cost him reelection.

In 2014, Rauner, a billionaire businessman, ran as a pro-choice Republican. Abortion rights, he went out of way to make clear, would not be an issue if he were governor—so no need to fear, swing voters. 

His reassurance on this issue is part of the reason he got the votes he needed out of DuPage, Lake, and suburban Cook counties to beat former governor Pat Quinn.

Well, you probably remember the disaster that came next . . .

As governor, Rauner waged war against unions. He refused to pass a state budget unless Democrats caved in and voted for his anti-collective bargaining legislation.

The statehouse Republicans stayed with him throughout that fight, even as the state headed toward bankruptcy and unpaid bills grew as high as Mount Everest.

And then in 2017, Rauner got to the bill known as HB 40 and the whole thing fell apart.

This was a bill, pushed by Democrats and reproductive rights groups, that provided Medicaid funding for abortions and elimated the notorious trigger law.

That’s the language which would outlaw almost all abortions in Illinois, if the Supreme Court would do as it just did—overule Roe.

Here’s the precise language. Read it yourself—if only to realize what Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey would undoubtedly try to bring back should he defeat Pritzker in the fall.

“The unborn child is a human being from the time of conception and is, therefore, a legal person for purposes of the unborn child’s right to life and is entitled to the right to life from conception under the laws and Constitution of this State. Further, the General Assembly finds and declares that longstanding policy of this state to protect the right to life of the unborn child from conception by prohibiting abortion unless necessary to preserve the life of the mother is impermissible only because of the decisions of the United State Supreme Court and that, therefore, if those decisions of the United States Supreme Court are ever reversed or modified or the United State Constitution is amended to allow protection of the unborn then the former policy of this State to prohibit abortions unless necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life shall be reinstated.”

HB 40 eliminated that language. Just scratched it right out of law, like it was never meant to be.

When the bill advanced towards his desk to be signed, Rauner got wobbly.

His Republican allies in the General Assembly let him know they expected him to veto the bill. He privately told them he wouldn’t sign it. Then publicly said he hadn’t made up his mind. To which the Republicans accused him of going back on his word.

I never understood what right-wing Republicans expected. Again, Rauner ran as a pro-choice candidate. He and his wife had donated money to Planned Parenthood. The Republicans knew what they were voting for when they voted for him in 2014. 

In September 2017, Rauner signed HB 40 into law, winning praise from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.

But Republicans were livid. And in the Republican primary of 2018, state rep Jeanne Ives ran at Rauner from the right. He beat her, but it was a close and bruising race. 

His old coalition was shredded. He lost much of the independent vote to Pritzker and without rock-solid support from MAGA, he lost.

In the last year or so, Rauner’s old crony and funder, Kenneth Griffin, tried to piece that old Rauner coalition together behind Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin.

Griffin pumped $50 million into Irvin’s campaign, trying to run him as a “moderate”. But this time around MAGA wasn’t looking the other way, as they did with Rauner back in 2014. 

They demanded that Irvin toe the line on abortion. Poor Irvin didn’t know what to do. If he supported abortion rights, he wouldn’t win the primary. If he opposed abortion rights, he wouldn’t be able to peel off enough suburban voters to beat Pritzker in November.

Not knowing what to say on the topic, he tried to get away with saying nothing. Obviously, that didn’t work very well. He wound up coming in third–behind state senator Darren Bailey and Jesse Sullivan.

A few weeks before the election, Griffin sort of raised the white flag. He announced he was moving to Florida, even though Irvin, his candidate, was still running for governor.

First Rauner and now Griffin—you might say MAGA ran two of the richest Republicans right out of the state.

Don’t feel bad for Griffin. Like Rauner, he’s pals with Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Apparently, the terms of the deal for rich Republican “moderates” runs like this . . . 

If you want to elect Republicans who push through tax breaks, you have to toe the MAGA line on guns, gays, race, the environment, and abortion. Especially abortion.

As I said, I have no doubt Darren Bailey would try to restore that inked-out right-to-life language should he be elected governor. You thought the fight was over, people, but really it’s just heating up.

And with that I’ll end this history lesson with this reminder. When it comes to abortion, MAGA won’t rest until it’s as illegal here as it is in Mississippi.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Bruce Rauner. 

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