CHICAGO - Celebrating reproductive rights, and keynoted by Congressman Jan Schakowsky, both the Republican and Democrat gubernatorial candidates made an appearance at the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union annual Bill of Rights Dinner Saturday night in Chicago. A first, according to Ed Yohnka, the communications director for the organization.
Also a first was the absence of the GOP gubernatorial candidate two days earlier in DuPage County, where FOX News television personality Mike Huckabee keynoted the 45th Anniversary Dinner of the Illinois Right to Life Committee.
"Mr. Rauner and Governor Quinn both attended the ACLU's annual Bill of Rights dinner reception," Yohnka told Illinois Review, "but neither stayed for the dinner honoring our Reproductive Rights Project. Neither candidate had the opportunity to speak to the group, as the setup wasn't conducive to addressing the group."
Nearly 500 guests attended the ACLU event, which was hosted by a number of corporations and individuals, including Rauner's wife Diana.
"Congresswoman Schakowsky spoke with confidence that reproductive freedom will continue to be protected throughout the states," Yohnka said, alluding to ACLU-Illinois' success in warding off attempts to restrict abortion in Illinois.
The ACLU has actively lobbied against abortion restrictions in Illinois, including stopping a state ban on partial birth abortions and tougher clinic regulations.
"It is disgusting that Mr. Rauner would give money to, and celebrate with, an organization that brags about its support of partial birth abortion, a gruesome procedure involving the severing of the spinal cords of fully developed unborn children," Illinois Right to Life Committee's new executive director Emily Zender told Illinois Review.
"This is the same ACLU that delayed for decades our state's parental notice of abortion law with frivolous lawsuits, protecting child predators by allowing them to take 12, 13, and 14 year-old girls for abortions while keeping those girls' parents in the dark."
Zender told IR they had originally been informed that Rauner's running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti was going to attend the pro-life dinner. However, when the organization refused to provide her a complimentary ticket, the Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate backed out, citing a scheduling conflict.
David E. Smith of the conservative Illinois Family Institute was also shocked to learn of Rauner's appearance at the ACLU event.
"So Mr. Rauner didn't go to the Lincoln Day Dinner in Rock Island because a pastor's comments were offensive, but he was okay attending a reception where abortion rights were glorified and Nancy Pelosi-like Congresswoman Jan Schakowky was giving the keynote?" Smith told Illinois Review.
"When is Mr. Rauner going to reach out to conservatives in Illinois? Or is he going to stay within his comfort zone and reach out only to Democrats and liberals?"
Zender said Rauner's choices of who he promotes can only reflect what Illinois citizens can expect from him if he is elected governor in November.
"Mr. Rauner can't claim that he wants to serve the best interests of the women and children of Illinois while at the same time promoting the ACLU and its abortion-at-all-costs agenda," she said.
The Rauner campaign refused to comment.
From the ACLU-Illinois' website: