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June 9, 2000


SPRINGFIELD - Governor George H. Ryan today vetoed House Bill 709, legislation that would have prevented state-funded abortions necessary to protect the health of a woman.

Ryan added he upheld a long-standing state policy on state-funded abortions for poor women because the policy has not been abused in the past and because the state should not allow discrimination against the poor in matters of health care.

"I have consistently supported, and continue to support, a 'pro-life' position on abortion," Ryan said. "But as a pharmacist by profession, I have been involved in health care my entire life and I find it impossible to separate health from life. We live in a very health-conscious society, with a special concern for women's health. Why then, would we not be concerned about the health of a pregnant woman - rich or poor?"

Under the legislation, state-funded abortions for poor women would be allowed only in cases of rape, incest and to preserve the life of the mother. Current Illinois law allows state-funded abortions in cases of rape, incest, to preserve the life of the mother and to protect the mother's health. The Department of Public Aid is under a court order to allow state payments for abortions to protect a woman's health.

For months, Ryan has said that he is troubled that the proposal would completely disregard the "health" of a pregnant woman and force doctors to consider an abortion only when a woman's health concerns reached the point where the mother's life is in danger.

"With this legislation, physicians of women who receive state assistance would be required to needlessly wait until the pregnant woman's medical condition deteriorated to the point that the mother's life is at risk before an abortion could be performed," Ryan said. "Medical science is not so exact as to make these precise determinations and in my judgement, it is not possible to separate the issues of 'health' and life.'"

While some argue that the "health" provision of the current law is a loophole that allows doctors to order abortions for any minor health concerns, statistics on file with the Department of Public Aid do not support the view that the policy has been abused. According to IDPH, nine women received state-funded abortions for health reasons fiscal year 1999 and in the first eleven months of this fiscal year, only 10 have been performed for health reasons.

In addition, the governor said that signing House Bill 709 into law would have started a court challenge based on a 1994 Cook County Circuit Court order that requires the state to pay for abortions to protect the health of the mother.


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