Opinions Editor

Jim Dey is a staff writer for The News-Gazette. His email is jdey@news-gazette.com.

Following Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s lead, 13th Congressional District Democratic candidate Nikki Budzinski has embraced legal abortion as a top priority and denounced her Republican opponent as an “extremist” for opposing the procedure.

Budzinksi’s opponent, Regan Deering of Decatur, in turn, responded that it’s Budzinski who is the “extremist” for supporting legal abortion without restrictions.

The exchange between the two candidates in Illinois’ new 13th District, which includes Champaign-Urbana, is one of the first in which one candidate has directly challenged the other.

Both candidates said the issue is deeply personal to them.

Buzinski said she has been “pro-choice my entire life,” particularly so after working as an intern for Planned Parenthood while a student at the University of Illinois.

Deering said her pro-life position stems from being “someone who was given life by a brave mother who chose adoption” rather than ending her life in utero.

Budzinski, a former high-ranking staff member for both Pritzker and President Joe Biden, held a Zoom meeting with reporters last week along with Emily Cain of Emily’s List and Angela Vasquez-Giroux of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Noting abortion in Illinois is unrestricted and taxpayer-funded, Vasquez-Giroux lauded the state for being among those that “support abortion.”

Because Budzinski and Deering are running for the U.S. House of Representatives, their legislative options are limited in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that reversed the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide, and sent the issue back to state legislatures to resolve.

Budzinski said she supports federal legislation that would “codify” the Roe v. Wade ruling on a national basis. Deering said she opposes that approach, preferring to let individual states decide for themselves how best to approach the issue.

Illinois is wide open on abortion. Some have suggested and there has been anecdotal evidence that Illinois is becoming an abortion magnet, drawing people from states where it is restricted or not permitted.

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There is another federal issue — the Hyde Amendment — on which the candidates disagree. The amendment, named after the late Illinois U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, “bans states from using national Medicaid funds to pay for abortion.”

Some states, like Illinois, use their own funds to pay for abortions for low-income patients.

Deering said, “I support the Hyde Amendment. I also support more funding for maternal care and adoption services.”

Democrats have targeted the Hyde Amendment for repeal. Asked last week if she supported repeal, Budzinksi did not say.

“I will never vote for legislation that puts the life and health of a woman at risk. ... These decisions should be between a woman and her doctor, not between a woman and her member of Congress,” Budzinksi said.

Budzinski is more forthcoming on her website, where she states she “support(s) the repeal of the Hyde Amendment.”

Although the candidates for federal office have no authority to address state law, Budzinski and Deering expressed sharp differences on the abortion issue.

Budzinki indicated she supports Illinois’ liberal approach and promised that “we’ll be highlighting the importance of ‘choice’ throughout this campaign.”

Deering said she opposes abortion with the exception of a threat to the life of the mother or pregnancy stemming from “trauma,” like rape or incest.

Each candidate accused the other of not being in step with the residents of the new 13th District, a gerrymandered snakelike mess that nearly divides another district and runs all the way to the Missouri border.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-393-8251.

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