Where 11th District GOP candidates stand on abortion, and why one has made a shift

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correctly reflect Evans’ hometown of Warrenville.

All three Republicans seeking the party’s nomination for Illinois’ 11th Congressional District seat support allowing states to determine whether abortion is legal.

That’s a shift for candidate Jerry Evans, who supported a federal abortion ban when he ran for Congress two years ago.

Evans, of Warrenville, is joined on the March 19 primary ballot by Susan Hathaway-Altman of Geneva and Kent Mercado of Bartlett. The candidates fielded questions about abortion and other issues in a recent group interview over Zoom with the Daily Herald.

Evans, a music school owner, praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case, in which the divided court ruled the Constitution doesn’t protect a woman’s right to have an abortion. Since then, several states have enacted restrictions on the procedure or began enforcing previously dormant laws.

“I think Dobbs made things right,” Evans said.

During a similar interview two years ago, Evans said abortion should be banned nationwide, and he called for the rights of fetuses to be protected by the Constitution.

When pressed about the apparent position change during the more recent group interview, Evans noted his 2022 comments came before the Dobbs decision was released to the public. Evans said he no longer supports a federal abortion ban and wouldn’t support such a proposal if elected to Congress.

Evans also opposes spending taxpayer funds on abortion and federal funding for nonprofit Planned Parenthood clinics. Additionally, he proposes mandated prenatal child support for pregnant woman from the expectant fathers and said he supports parental notification for minors seeking abortions.

Hathaway-Altman, who also sought the GOP nomination in the 11th District in 2022, said abortion rights should be determined at the state level, not federally. A chief sales officer for a travel company, Hathaway-Altman suggested referendums could be used to set laws in each state.

“I believe the people should be able to make the decision, not just (leaving it) up to legislators,” she said.

Hathaway-Altman said she also supports mandated parental notification for minors seeking abortions. Additionally, she believes the same amount of federal dollars given to Planned Parenthood should go to education and resources dedicated to helping young people decide whether to keep babies or give them up for adoption.

“That is extremely important to me,” she said.

Mercado, a doctor and attorney making his first run for elected office, insisted the federal government “does not have any role in this issue.” Going a step further, Mercado said he would oppose federal bans attempted through legislation or executive orders.

“It’s a state issue. It’s not a federal issue,” Mercado said.

The 11th District encompasses portions of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Boone counties.

The winner of the March 19 Republican primary will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster or challenger Qasim Rashid, both of Naperville, in November’s general election.

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