Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.
Candidates for Illinois’ 13th Congressional District on Thursday shared plans for what action they would take — and would not take — on abortion if elected in November.
The newly drawn 13th Congressional District includes parts of St. Clair, Madison, Champaign, Macon, Piatt and Sangamon counties and all of Macoupin County. Voters will decide between Democrat Nikki Budzinski and Republican Regan Deering in the Nov. 8 election.
Deering, of Decatur, said in a Belleville News-Democrat candidate questionnaire she is a community advocate and philanthropist. Budzinski, of Springfield, is a former senior adviser to Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Neither Budzinski nor Deering have run for a public office before this race.
Budzinski held a press call Thursday to tout her plans related to abortion rights, which she described as a critically important issue for the district. Deering released a statement following the call in which she described Budzinski’s stance as out of touch with the district.
After the Supreme Court overturned constitutional protections granted in the landmark Roe v. Wade case this summer, the public conversation about possible congressional responses has focused on moves to make abortion legal or illegal nationally.
Both Deering and Budzinski said they oppose a national ban on abortions.
Deering said the issue should instead be taken up by individual states.
“The issue is now at the states where it belongs,” Deering stated Thursday.
Budzinski, on the other hand, wants to codify the right to an abortion.
But some legal experts are skeptical that Congress could make abortions legal — or illegal — because of limits to its regulatory authority.
Law professors Alan Morrison and Sonia Suter from the George Washington University Law School wrote in a column last month for The Hill, “there is no serious legal argument that Congress has that power.”
The BND asked Budzinski’s team to respond to this view, but they did not address it during Thursday’s call. Reporters submitted their questions to Budzinski’s campaign manager, who selected which ones to pose to the candidate.
After the Supreme Court decision in June, legislative attorneys from the Congressional Research Service wrote in a report for the Democratic-controlled Congress that it could argue its power to regulate commerce allows it to enact abortion-related laws. The attorneys acknowledged ways that argument might fail in the courts.
The Congressional Research Service is a federal agency that conducts public policy research for members of Congress.
The attorneys’ report also mentioned the possibility of using its spending power to regulate abortion, including by requiring states to expand or restrict access to abortion in order to receive federal health care funding.
For the last two budget cycles, members of Congress have been debating a related issue: what to do about the federal Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars through the federal Medicaid program to pay for abortions. Medicaid helps cover medical expenses for people with low incomes.
Deering states on her campaign website that she supports reinstating the Hyde Amendment.
“Federal funds should be allocated to women’s health clinics across the country and perhaps be considered to support families facing increasing costs for the adoption of a child,” she states on her website. Deering was adopted and says the experience shaped her stance on abortion.
Budzinski’s campaign website states that she supports repealing the Hyde Amendment.
“I think that we need to make sure that what we’re doing at the federal level is supporting a woman’s access to full reproductive health care, and so that’s what I will be fighting for in Congress,” Budzinski said Thursday.
Democrats created new boundaries for the 13th Congressional District last year during redistricting. It forced the current incumbent, Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, to run in the newly created 15th Congressional District. He lost the GOP primary race to U.S. Rep. Mary Miller.
Lexi Cortes is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.