Suburban lawmaker responds to Planned Parenthood flap with fetus ban idea

State Rep. Peter Breen says aborted fetuses shouldn't be donated for scientific research, an idea that comes after the release of controversial videos showing Planned Parenthood officials talking about the practice.

The Lombard Republican filed legislation this week that would change the state law that allows people or their close relatives to donate their bodies to science after their death if that's their wish.

Breen's proposal would exempt aborted fetuses from that rule, outlawing the donations for research purposes. He said the practice is "rife with abuse."

"It's just best to end the practice altogether," Breen said.

Breen, an attorney who works with the abortion-opposing Thomas More Society, says his plan is a response to the hidden-camera videos released by a California group.

Not everyone agrees with him. Planned Parenthood deferred comment to the American Civil Liberties Union, which said Breen's plan will "prevent lifesaving research in Illinois" into HIV, heart and brain diseases.

"If a woman chooses to donate fetal tissue for important medical research, her decision should be respected and accommodated when possible, just as it is in other health care circumstances," said Lorie Chaiten, director of ACLU's Reproductive Rights Project.

Backers line up

Breen has about 30 other lawmakers signed on as supporters, but the proposal could face deep skepticism in an Illinois Capitol controlled by Democrats.

As of Thursday morning, Breen's supporters included many suburban Republicans and three downstate Democrats.

Big picture

Many Democrats have criticized the videos as an attack on an organization that has a role in women's health across the country.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, sent out a fundraising email to supporters Sunday to push back against the effort to defund Planned Parenthood on the federal level.

"The latest accusations facing Planned Parenthood are part of a deliberate smear campaign that's intended to sabotage the organization's mission and that is putting essential health care for millions of women at risk," the email said.

The Republican she hopes to take on in 2016, Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park, was the only Republican to vote against a procedural move toward defunding the group.

But Republican Reps. Randy Hultgren of Plano and Peter Roskam of Wheaton have been vocal critics of Planned Parenthood.

"Women need more than Planned Parenthood can provide. We should direct taxpayer dollars where they can do the most good," Hultgren wrote in a Sun-Times op-ed.

School funding shake-up?

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said at a news conference this week that he's largely come to an agreement with Democratic Senate President John Cullerton on an issue of great interest to suburban schools.

Rauner says he basically agrees with Cullerton's idea to form a commission to find a new way to divvy up state money for local schools.

Cullerton wants to dissolve the old way in two years, forcing a commission to figure out how to redo it by then.

"We've agreed we're going to form a commission to take this on and deal with it. We're talking through the mechanics right now," he said.

The catch: Right now, the idea is part of a two-year property tax freeze proposal advanced by Cullerton that Rauner doesn't agree with. What Rauner wants - provisions that Democrats say weaken unions locally - has been a deal-breaker so far.

"Gov. Rauner's local control agenda is a thinly veiled effort to diminish the rights of hard-working people," Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said.

Still, Rauner called the way the state hands out money "broken," an idea many Democrats agree with.

Past proposals have been controversial in the suburbs because a redistribution of state money could take millions of dollars from suburban school districts that have the benefit of strong local property tax support.

"I don't support taking money from some school districts and giving it to others," Rauner said. "What I do support is raising overall state support for public education."

Moment of silence

State lawmakers observed a moment of silence on the Illinois House floor Wednesday in remembrance of the man killed when a tent collapsed at a Wood Dale festival last weekend.

State Rep. Kathleen Willis of Addison asked lawmakers to remember 35-year-old Steven Nincic and the family he left behind.

Republican U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren of Plano and Peter Roskam of Wheaton are among those criticizing Planned Parenthood, here opening a clinic in 2007 in Aurora. Daily Herald File Photo
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