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Leak of U.S. Supreme Court draft decision overturning abortion rights becomes boiling issue in Illinois gubernatorial race

Abortion rights draft decision becomes hot-button issue in Illinois gubernatorial race 02:22

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The leak of a draft decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling takes abortion – the political issue – from simmering to boiling in the upcoming Illinois gubernatorial race.

On Tuesday, CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov examined the potential impact of the draft ruling on next month's primary, and what candidates are saying.

Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker issued a strong, but not surprising declaration Wednesday.

"No matter what atrocious opinion the Supreme Court officially rolls out this summer in regards to Roe v. Wade, abortion is safe and legal in Illinois," Pritzker said.

Pritzker, who is running for reelection, signed a law in 2019 making reproductive health care – including abortion – a human right.

"As long as I am governor of Illinois, and as long as we have a pro-choice Legislature, abortion will be legal in this state," Pritzker said.

That 2019 law enhanced a 2017 state law signed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner that codified abortion as legal in Illinois.

The 2017 legislation provided state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions, and also removed language in Illinois law that had stated a desire to criminalize abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned. Democrats adopted that provision after then-President Donald Trump expressed his opposition to abortion.

Pritzker's position is clear. But the words "pro-choice Legislature" are key – a shift in party power in Springfield could impact abortion laws in the future.

And with the gubernatorial primary eight weeks away, abortion may now become a top issue for Republican candidates.

"In Illinois, we've gone too far," said GOP gubernatorial candidate Gary Rabine.

Rabine believes abortion rights should be a campaign issue.

"I think you're going to find out we've got we've got some people in our race – definitely one – that claims to be pro-life, but never has acted that way," Rabine said. "I think it's a good thing, you know. We're going to find out who's who, probably, because the question will come up more often than before."

Rabine supports an abortion ban except when the mother's life is in danger, and potentially in cases of rape and incest.

Meanwhile, venture capitalist and Republican candidate Jesse Sullivan also issued a statement in favor of the reported draft opinion – with what his campaign called "prayerful gratitude and unbridled optimism:"

His statement Monday night read in part: "While the decision isn't official – and could yet be months away – I'm overjoyed at what could be a generational change in the soul of our country. Prayer works, and my prayer tonight is gratitude. Our prayers, our persistence, and our patriotism could save millions of lives for generations to come."

Sullivan added in a Zoom interview Tuesday, "I would love in the Republican primary right now if people would be clear on what they stand for."

Sullivan did state he would back an exception to a ban on abortion if a mother's life were in danger.

Fellow Republican candidate for governor Darren Bailey also issued a statement in response to the draft opinion:

"Cindy and I continue to pray for life and our nation. I am proudly pro-life and endorsed by every major pro-life group in the state. I have stated from the beginning that I would help and promote policies and groups that help empower women with real options and save lives. We live in a state where Democrats hold a supermajority in both chambers, but our laws are too extreme. As Governor, my focus will be restoring parental notification, ending taxpayer-funded abortion, and prioritizing and ensuring viable options that save lives and support women and families before, during, and after pregnancy."

A spokesperson did not say whether Bailey backs any exceptions allowing abortion.

Another GOP candidate, attorney Max Solomon, said he'll "welcome the overturn of Roe v. Wade when it happens."

Gov. Pritzker's only primary challenge, Beverly Miles, tells CBS 2 she believes Roe v. Wade should remain intact.

There has been silence, so far, from GOP candidate Paul Schimpf.

As for GOP candidate and Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, his campaign would only say he will have a statement with the Supreme Court makes its final decision.

"I think Richard Irvin hiding out – like he does on most questions – of where he stands on this issue, he should share out," Sullivan said.

Gov. Pritzker's only primary challenge, Beverly Miles, tells CBS 2 she believes Roe v. Wade should remain intact.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In our 5 p.m. news Tuesday evening, we erroneously reported that GOP Illinois gubernatorial candidate Jesse Sullivan "is not hiding his pro-choice views."  Sullivan describes himself as pro-life, except when a mother's life is in danger.  We apologize for the mistake.

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