New Planned Parenthood Of Illinois President Faces Challenges

New Planned Parenthood Of Illinois President Faces Challenges

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

The new head of Planned Parenthood of Illinois says she’s “hopeful” Gov. Bruce Rauner will support abortion rights even though the Republican governor has vowed to veto an abortion-related bill.

Jennifer Welch, who recently became president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia that Rauner and his wife, Diana, have been supporters of the organization for many years. Last month, the Rauners donated $50,000 to Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

The Rauners have been Planned Parenthood supporters both locally and nationally for many years, so we are hoping that the governor continues his support for reproductive health care access,” Welch said.

At the same time, Welch said her top legislative priority is passage of HB 40, a bill that would allow the state to cover abortions for its employees and Medicaid recipients. Rauner has said he would veto the measure.

Welch also talked about the challenges facing Planned Parenthood, which could lose all federal funding for a year under the GOP’s health care proposal that cleared the U.S. House last week.

Below are some interview highlights.

On what might happen if Planned Parenthood lost federal funding

Jennifer Welch: It will make it harder for women in Illinois to prevent unintended pregnancies. It will make it harder for women to have healthy pregnancies. Blocking access also hurts people mostly in communities that are already struggling, whether it’s a rural community where there’s lack of access to other services or communities right here in Chicago that are already facing poverty and violence.

Tony Sarabia: What have other health centers said about picking up the slack?

Welch: Well, they admit that they are not prepared to pick up the slack. And in fact, the list that I’ve seen from some politicians — when they point to, “Oh, these other health centers can take care of those patients when we stop Planned Parenthood from doing those services” — those health care centers, some of them have never even provided family planning.

One list I saw had a dentist’s office and a substance abuse rehab center, places that have never offered any reproductive health care services and certainly aren’t prepared to do so now. When asked, they admit it. The dentist doesn’t want you to call for your pap smear appointment.

On misconceptions about abortion funding

Welch: Planned Parenthood hasn’t been able to use federal funding for abortion care in many, many years. In fact, federal funds are not allowed to be used for abortion. So our federal funding goes to provide a full range of reproductive health care services, not abortion services. … Family planning, birth control, annual exams, basic reproductive health care services.

On the chances the bill may not pass the Senate

Welch: That is reassuring; that it is just a bill. And I would say that we can thank our Illinois senators — both of whom have said they would not support the bill — but it’s also important for people to know how their congressperson voted and hold them accountable for that vote. Because a number of congresspeople here in Illinois did support that disastrous bill.

On Gov. Bruce Rauner and HB 40

Sarabia: What kind of messages have you seen coming from the Rauner administration when it comes to reproductive health, specifically abortion rights?

Welch: The Rauners have been Planned Parenthood supporters both locally and nationally for many years, so we are hoping that the governor continues his support for reproductive health care access.

Sarabia: You haven’t seen anything to indicate otherwise given the fact that he’s entering or is in campaign mode?

Welch: We’re hopeful that he’ll continue his support.

HB 40 is our top advocacy priority right now, and that’s a bill that will ensure that abortion remains legal in our state even if Roe v. Wade is overturned. It also removes a discriminatory provision in existing law that denies coverage for women who depend on Medicaid, and also state employees.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Press the ‘play’ button above to hear the entire segment.